A number of factors may increase your risk of developing fecal incontinence, including:
- Age. Although fecal incontinence can occur at any age, it’s more common in adults over 65.
- Being female. Fecal incontinence can be a complication of childbirth. Recent research has also found that women who take menopausal hormone replacement therapy have a modest increased risk of fecal incontinence.
- Nerve damage. People who have long-standing diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or back trauma from injury or surgery may be at risk of fecal incontinence, as these conditions can damage nerves that help control defecation.
- Dementia. Fecal incontinences is often present in late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Physical disability. Being physically disabled may make it difficult to reach a toilet in time. An injury that caused a physical disability also may cause rectal nerve damage, leading to fecal incontinences.
Complications of fecal incontinences may include:
- Emotional distress. The loss of dignity associated with losing control over one’s bodily functions can lead to embarrassment, shame, frustration and depression. It’s common for people with fecal incontinences to try to hide the problem or to avoid social engagements.
- Skin irritation. The skin around the anus is delicate and sensitive. Repeated contact with stool can lead to pain and itching, and potentially to sores (ulcers) that require medical treatment.
Depending on the cause, it may be possible to improve or prevent fecal incontinences. These actions may help:
- Reduce constipation. Increase your exercise, eat more high-fiber foods and drink plenty of fluids.
- Control diarrhea. Treating or eliminating the cause of the diarrhea, such as an intestinal infection, may help you avoid fecal incontinence.
- Avoid straining. Straining during bowel movements can eventually weaken anal sphincter muscles or damage nerves, possibly leading to fecal incontinences.
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