What is it?
First of all bowel incontinence is understandably not talked about with most people given it is an embarrassing topic and not a terribly popular topic to discuss at the best of times.
Notwithstanding this, the problem now affects millions of people in the developed and developing worlds.
Bowel incontinence is the inability to control ones movements and its severity ranges from mild difficulty with gas control to severe loss of stools movement control.
What causes incontinence?
Childbirth is one of the most common causes and the result of a difficult childbirth or even a normal one for that matter can cause a tear in the anal muscles. This may result in nerve damage to the area and this is particularly so in under developing countries where experienced doctors and nurses may not notice the injury or there is little medical aid available for this type of injury. Consequently the problem may return years later to be a cause of bowel incontinence.
Even with correct medical treatment at the time of injury to the mother, the genesis of the condition can be attributable to earlier child birth in many cases.
There are other causes like: Diarrhoea possibly because of an infection or irritable bowel syndrome, an impacted stool caused by constipation particularly with elderly people, Crohn’s disease, nerve damage from diabetes, spinal injuries, MS, radiation damage to the rectum after treatment for prostate surgery or similar, mental disability such as senility brought on by a stroke or advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Surgeryin the pelvic area may contribute to the onset of the condition, causing trauma to surrounding tissue and particularly the muscles surrounding the anus. This scarring is also known as adhesions which cause the muscle to work less effectively and can bring on the symptoms of the condition in later life.
Frequently diarrhoea inflames tissue in the colon, anus and rectal area. This is often accompanied by bleeding and if that is the case it is advisable to consult with your local GP promptly.
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Diagnosis of Bowel Incontinence
Generally the doctor will ask about the patient’s history, number of child births, operations, episiotomies and the like. He may conduct an ultra sound where he inserts a small probe up the patients back passage to detect if the tissue has been damaged or not. He might also determine the strength of the muscles in and around the anus by getting the patient to contract and relax his/her anus with a measuring device called a manometre.
Repairing is it possible?
Depending on the severity of the problem the GP may suggest a range of options to consider. In the instance where the condition is mild, may mean a change in diet, some medication to reduce inflamed tissue in the area, help with constipation or diarrhoea.
Hopefully your doctor will suggest to the patient the option of pelvic floor exercises (Kegel Exercises).These are extremely successful in strengthening the pelvic area and preventing'accidents'.
Kegel Exercises are by far the most effective way to combat bowel incontinence if there is nothing anatomically or medically preventing the patient from carrying these out on a daily routine basis.
Performing these exercises routinely can be initially met with some resistance, so compliance (doing as suggested!) is important and getting in the habit of doing them regularly is the absolute best option for many people.
The next issue with Kegel Exercises is also learning how to do the exercises correctly as statistically 50% of all people are unable to perform the exercise correctly when given written or verbal instruction. And there a whole range of reasons why this is, but it’s true!
A whole page in this website is devoted to teaching how to perform Kegel exercises correctly so study them slowly and carefully until you are confident you are doing them correctly-this is most important to aid in recovery.
Kegel Exercises(pelvic floor exercises) are the most effective therapy of all in treating incontinence.
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Failing this the doctor may suggest surgery to repair the muscle, but again unless that muscle is strengthened before and after surgery with Kegel Exercises the treatment may prove only temporary.
The last option is to replace the anal sphincter with an artificial one. This is a final option which is always a major consideration for anyone.
The artificial sphincter replaces your own and is surgically implanted. They are shaped like a donut and filled with a fluid to keep the anus closed. When the patient needs to go to the toilet, the pressure in the ‘donut’ is released to allow a bowel movement and then pumped up again following the completion to keep the anus closed.
Surgery is not the first option to consider and many people with diabetes and a whole host of other illnesses have managed to recover from both bowel and urinary incontinence successfully with the correct understanding of the condition and the best option to aid in recovery.Chronic inflammation is a key contributor to bowel incontinence so if the inflammation can be reduced this will go a long way to improving the overall condition.
The last and final alternative is a colostomy bag, which may and does improve the quality of life for many people.
In summary bowel surgery is an operation to consider carefully and all options need to be considered before you embark upon such an undertaking.
Bowel incontinence can be managed and the quality of your life can be improved sometimes by considering other health options like diet and exercise. This does not work for all, but it is always an important aspect in the recovery of anyone suffering this debilitating disease.