Like ‘urinary incontinence’ in which urine leaks unintentionally, the condition in which stool is not controlled and leaks out is called ‘fecal incontinence’. Fecal incontinence is a typical disease that lowers the quality of life, and if left untreated, it can cause mental disorders such as social phobia and depression. If stool remains around the anus due to fecal incontinence, there is a high risk of developing anal pruritus, skin infection, and cystitis. Therefore, when you suspect fecal incontinence, do not hesitate to visit a hospital and start treatment.
A condition in which stool is not controlled and leaks out is called ‘fecal incontinence’｜Source: Getty Images Bank
1 in 10 seniors suffer from ‘fecal incontinence’
The main symptom of fecal incontinence is the feeling of having a bowel movement or needing a bowel movement without knowing it, but making a mistake in underwear because it cannot be controlled. When you cough, sneeze, or fart, your stomach may feel pressure and stool may leak out.
These symptoms are generally known to occur frequently in the elderly. Depending on the study, it is estimated that about 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 suffer from fecal incontinence. In reality, there are analyzes that even more adults are suffering from this disease. This is because there are likely to be many people who are reluctant to reveal the nature of the disease.
In addition to the elderly, patients suffering from urinary incontinence, dementia, mental illness, chronic constipation, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and spinal cord injury are included in the high-risk group. It can also occur as a complication after surgery. According to the Korean Society of Colorectal and Anal, it can occur in ‘27% of fistula surgeries, 12% after orthodontic surgery, and 6% after hemorrhoidectomy’. In addition, childbirth, trauma, and side effects of drug treatment can cause fecal incontinence.
Since various causes must be identified, when fecal incontinence is suspected, it is necessary to inform the doctor about the symptoms such as the hardness of feces, the number and time of fecal incontinence in detail, and receive an appropriate examination. Methods for diagnosing fecal incontinence include anal ultrasound, anorectal pressure test, defecation angiography, electromyography, and measurement of pubic nerve terminal motor muscle latency.
Avoid foods that cause diarrhea and do Kegel exercises regularly.
If fecal incontinence is treated appropriately, significant improvement can be expected in 70-80% of patients. To alleviate the symptoms of fecal incontinence, you must first adjust your diet. Avoid milk, alcohol, spicy food, and caffeine that cause diarrhea, and eat enough fiber. Also, drinking enough water to prevent constipation can help relieve symptoms.
Kegel exercises, which are known to be effective in preventing urinary incontinence, are also effective in preventing fecal incontinence. Kegel exercises are exercises that repeatedly tighten and release muscles, just like when you hold in your urine. Repeat 50 to 100 times a day to strengthen the anal sphincter to prevent fecal incontinence.
If lifestyle changes do not solve the problem, ‘medication’ to reduce the number of stools or improve stool hardness, or ‘electrical stimulation’ to stimulate the anal muscles with electricity to restore rectal sensory ability and contract the anal sphincter to strengthen the muscles treatment’, etc. Surgical treatment is considered when non-surgical treatment does not work or when damage to the anal canal or anal sphincter occurs.
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