How is fecal incontinence treated?
Drugs
Drugs may be useful when:

  • the bowel is squeezing too strongly (urgency to get to the bathroom quickly)
  • the stool is very loose
  • the sphincter muscles are weak

Sometimes doctors recommend using bulk laxatives (Citrucel, Metamucil) to help people develop a more regular bowel pattern. Or the doctor may prescribe antidiarrheal medicines such as loperamide (Imodium) or diphenoxylate (Lomotil) to slow down the bowels and help control the problem.

Surgery
When the sphincter has been injured, leading to a gap in the sphincter muscles, an operation performed through the skin around the anus can cure the problem for many patients. When there is nerve damage to sphincter muscles a different operation to tighten the sphincter will sometimes help.

Other treatment
Techniques such as “biofeedback” are now available to retrain the bowel to be more sensitive to the presence of stool, so that the sphincter contracts when necessary.

In the very rare situation where nothing can be done to decrease incontinence, lifestyle modifications and advice are available which can make life much more comfortable.

Further information
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC): http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/fecalincontinence/index.aspx

Last Reviewed: May 2013