Who suffers from fecal incontinence?
Males and females of any age may be incontinent, for example:
- Children and teenagers if they are born with an abnormal sphincter or if they have persistent constipation.
- Mothers following childbirth, due usually to a tear in the sphincter muscles.
- People of any age who experience an injury or infection of the sphincter; that may be affected immediately or later in life.
- People suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (colitis) or irritable bowel syndrome (alternating constipation or diarrhea together with abdominal pain) because the bowel is very sensitive and squeezes strongly.
- Elderly people because of constipation and overflow from the bowel due to failing mental capacity, or sphincter damage persisting from a younger age.
- People suffering from disorders such as multiple sclerosis, stroke and epilepsy resulting in damage to the nerves supplying the sphincter.
What tests confirm a diagnosis of fecal incontience?
Tests of sphincter function are relatively simple, do not require preparation, are quick to perform and are usually pain-free. The strength of the muscles, sensation and nerve function, for example, can all be tested using simple measuring devices. An ultrasound can provide a clear picture of both the sphincter muscle rings, showing if one or both is damaged. This test is not uncomfortable, takes only 5 minutes, and involves no radiation. These tests are performed by doctors who specialize in continence. Your primary care physician will be able to put you in contact with a specialist who has expert knowledge about fecal incontinence. These problems are common so you do not need to feel embarrassed about discussing them. Most of the treatments are simple and effective, so do not hesitate to seek advice.