There are various causes for fecal incontinence that include diarrhea, constipation and damage to the nerves or muscles in the anal sphincter or rectum. Other causes for fecal incontinence are pelvic floor dysfunction, usually after childbirth and loss of storage capacity in the rectum.
Constipation and muscle damage
The most common cause for fecal incontinence is constipation. This leads to large stools that get lodged in the rectum. Moreover, constipation stretches and weakens the rectal muscles, so that they cannot hold stools long enough until a person reaches the bathroom.
Injury to one or both of the ring-like muscles located at the end of the rectum called the anal internal and external sphincters is another cause for fecal incontinence. It is these muscles that hold stools inside; and once they get damaged, they can't hold the stools and thus, they leak out.
These muscles may get damaged in women while giving birth. The chances of injury are even higher if the birth is carried out using a forceps or through an episiotomy. Even hemorrhoid surgery may lead to damage to these sphincter muscles.
Nerve damage and diarrhoea
Damage to the nerves controlling the anal sphincter also leads to fecal or bowel incontinence. Once the sensory nerves are damaged, they cannot sense stools in the rectum, thus dulling or eliminating the ability to recognize the need to use the bathroom until stool leaks out. These nerves may get damaged during childbirth, some injury, too much of straining to pass stools and diseases like diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Rectal surgery, inflammatory bowel diseases and radiation treatment cause scarring that makes the rectum stiff and less elastic, wherein the storage capacity of rectum is reduced. This loss of storage capacity leads to faecal incontinence.
It is difficult to control diarrhoea as it fills the rectum at a faster rate, and can lead to fecal incontinence.
Damage and problems to the pelvic floor muscles and nerves also lead to fecal incontinence. While pelvic floor dysfunction usually starts after childbirth, bowel incontinence does not start till the mid-forties or later on in life.
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