How is fecal incontinence treated?

Most people with accidental bowel leakage (ABL), also known as fecal incontinence, do not realize how common it is, and how many treatments are available to improve symptoms. Treatments for ABL vary based on different types.

Fiber can help change the consistency of the stool to make it easier to control. Avoiding certain foods can decrease symptoms. Pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises can strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor to provide more control.
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can regulate bowel movements and control urgency. Absorbent pads and barrier creams can protect skin. A technique called biofeedback can help increase the nerve sensation and improve the muscle strength of the pelvic floor.

If these strategies do not provide relief, two office procedures may be effective. Bulking injections bulk the anal canal and sacral neuromodulation provides nerve stimulation to improve bowel control. Surgical procedures can provide more lasting nerve stimulation, or in some cases, repair defects caused by trauma from an accident or a vaginal birth.

Ask your healthcare provider for more information about treatments for ABL. Your healthcare provider can be your partner in helping identify ways to reduce and improve symptoms.

Remember, you are not alone. ABL is common, and there are things you can do to improve your symptoms. Further, changes in stool color or consistency should always be discussed with your doctor.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Fecal incontinence can be treated. It is up to you and your doctor to decide which treatment is best for you. Choices range from dietary changes and bowel training regimens to extensive surgery. The approach you select will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. To help you gain the best possible control, physicians often recommend a combination of approaches. In most cases, the treatment begins with nonsurgical options.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.