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You are here : AllRefer.com > Health > Medical Symptoms > Bowel incontinence

Bowel incontinence

Alternate Names : Uncontrollable passage of feces, Loss of bowel control, Fecal incontinence, Incontinence - bowel


Definition

Bowel incontinence is the loss of bowel control, leading to an involuntary passage of stool. This can range from occasionally leaking a small amount of stool and passing gas, to completely losing control of bowel movements.

Urinary incontinence, a separate topic, is the inability to control the passage of urine.

Overview & Considerations

Among people over the age of 65, women more often experience bowel incontinence. Thirteen out of every 1,000 women report a loss of bowel control.

To hold stool and maintain continence requires normal function of the rectum, anus, pelvic muscles, and nervous system. You must also have the physical and mental ability to recognize and respond to the urge to defecate.

Common Causes
  • Chronic constipation, causing the muscles of the anus and intestines to stretch and weaken, and leading to diarrhea and stool leakage (see encopresis)
  • Chronic laxative use
  • Colectomy or bowel surgery
  • Decreased awareness of sensation of rectal fullness
  • Emotional problems
  • Gynecological, prostate, or rectal surgery
  • Injury to the anal muscles due to childbirth (in women)
  • Nerve or muscle damage (from stroke, trauma, tumor, or radiation)
  • Severe diarrhea that overwhelms the ability to control passage of stool
  • Severe hemorrhoids or rectal prolapse
  • Stress of unfamiliar environment
Pictures & Images

Digestive system
Digestive system

Inflatable artificial sphincter
Inflatable artificial sphincter

     
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Review Date : 11/2/2008
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.



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