Several treatment options exist for the loss of bowel control, often referred to as bowel incontinence. Treatment will depend largely on the cause of the loss of bowel control. This can include medication, dietary modification, therapy, and sometimes surgery.
Not to be confused with urinary incontinence, the loss of bowel control involves the passage of stool on an involuntary basis. The severity of the condition can range from occasional difficulties to a complete loss of function. The amount of stool leaked can also vary depending on the circumstances. Bowel incontinence is more prevalent in women over the age of 65 than men in the same age range.
Common causes of bowel incontinence have been identified, including chronic constipation, severe diarrhea, and stress. Some people suffering from the condition may have the inability to recognize the need to have a bowel movement. Other causes can include those related to surgery of the rectum, prostate, or bowel.
Medication can often help treat the loss of bowel control. In those that suffer from a loss of bowel control related to severe diarrhea, medication containing loperamide may be recommended to help reduce the frequency of bowel movements. Other medications and supplements that can be helpful include those containing activated charcoal or fiber.
Several dietary modifications may be helpful for those experiencing a loss of bowel control. This includes increasing fiber and reducing the amount of caffeine or alcohol in a person’s diet. Identifying foods that may trigger episodes of bowel incontinence is also an important part of dietary modification. This can include eliminating dairy products for those with lactose intolerance. Other dietary modifications include drinking plenty of fluids and getting regular exercise to help promote normal stool consistency and reduce the possibility of bowel incontinence.
Various therapies also exist as possible treatment measures for bowel incontinence. Those with difficulty controlling sphincter muscles may benefit from exercise programs specifically designed to increase muscle control. For some, especially the elderly, the process of getting to a bathroom may be preventing them from properly acting on the need to have a bowel movement. In this instance, assisting them to the bathroom after meals and on a regular basis can help reduce the possibility of a loss of bowel control.
Most cases of bowel incontinence are treatable with medication, dietary modification, and therapy, but surgery is an option for those who don’t respond to these treatments. Surgery options include repair of the muscles surrounding the anus and artificial bowel sphincter surgery. In severe cases, a colostomy may be performed.