Faecal incontinence

Faecal incontinence is defined as the involuntary loss of faecal material from the bowel. It can occur passively, without awareness or it may be preceded by urgency.

It can occur passively, without awareness or it may be preceded by urgency. Faecal incontinence affects an estimated 2% of the general population, but the prevalence increases with age; up to 11% of men and 26% of women over 50 years of age are affected.

Substantial impairment of quality of life can result from faecal incontinence with a devastating impact on social interactions and self-image, resulting in self-imposed isolation and depression. The problem is exacerbated by patients often being too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with their physicians.

How is faecal incontinence treated?

The treatment of faecal incontinence is primarily conservative, including:

  • Dietary and fluid management
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Use of absorbent pads and skin hygiene measures

There have been recent technological advances in biofeedback therapy. There are now new programmable devices available which combine nerve and muscle training without any discomfort for the patient.