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Bowel Incontinence

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Diagnosis of Bowel Incontinence continued...

Anorectal manometry. A pressure monitor is inserted into the anus and rectum. This allows measurement of the strength of the sphincter muscles.

Endosonography. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the anus. This produces images that can help identify problems in the anal and rectal walls.

Nerve tests. These tests measure the responsiveness of the nerves controlling the sphincter muscles. They can detect nerve damage that can cause bowel incontinence.

MRI defecography. Magnetic resonance imaging of the pelvis can be performed, potentially while a person moves her bowels on a special commode. This can provide information about the muscles and supporting structures in the anus, rectum, and pelvis.

Treatments for Bowel Incontinence

Bowel incontinence is usually treatable. In many cases, it can be cured completely.

Recommended treatments vary according to the cause of bowel incontinence. Often, more than one treatment method may be required to control symptoms.

Nonsurgical treatments are often recommended as initial treatment for bowel incontinence. These include:

Diet. These steps may be helpful:

  • Eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. This can make stool more bulky and easier to control.
  • Avoid caffeine. This may help prevent diarrhea.
  • Drink several glasses of water each day. This can prevent constipation.

Medications. Try these medicines to reduce the number of bowel movements and the urge to move the bowels:

  • Imodium
  • Lomotil
  • Hyoscyamine

Methylcellulose can help make liquid stool more solid and easier to control. For people with a specific cause of diarrhea, such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, other medications may also help.

Exercises. Begin a program of regularly contracting the muscles used to control urinary flow (Kegel exercises). This builds strength in the pelvic muscles and may help reduce bowel incontinence. 

Bowel training. Schedule bowel movements at the same times each day. This can help prevent accidents in between.

Biofeedback. A sensor is placed inside the anus and on the abdominal wall. This provides feedback as a person does exercises to improve bowel control.

Surgery may be recommended for people whose bowel incontinence is not helped by noninvasive treatments. The types of surgery include:

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