Fecal Incontinence (FI)

Fecal incontinence, or bowl incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements. This causes feces to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. Those with fecal incontinence may only experience leakage occasionally while passing gas or experience a complete loss of bowel control.

Common causes of fecal incontinence include diarrhea, constipation, and muscle or nerve damage. The muscle or nerve damage may be associated with aging or with giving birth.

While many shy away from talking to their doctor about this issue, treatments can improve fecal incontinence and your quality of life.

What are the types of fecal incontinence?

Fecal incontinence may occur temporarily during an occasional bout of diarrhea, or chronically (recurring).

  • Urge incontinence: People with chronic fecal incontinence may be unable to stop the urge to defecate, which comes on so suddenly that they don't make it to the toilet in time. This is called urge incontinence.
  • Passive incontinence: Another type of fecal incontinence occurs in people who are not aware of the need to pass stool. This is called passive incontinence.

How is fecal incontinence treated?

Often, people are reluctant to tell their doctors about fecal incontinence. But treatments are available, and the sooner you're evaluated, the sooner you may find some relief from your symptoms. Treatments for fecal incontinence can include medications, behavioral therapy, and/or changes in diet. Surgery to implant the InterStim system may also be an option. The InterStim system electrically stimulates the sacral nerve which is thought to normalize neural communication between the bowel and the brain.  InterStim offers significant quality of life improvements for people with chronic fecal incontinence.

If you have concerns about fecal incontinence, request an appointment at San Bernardino Gastroenterology Associates.