Anal incontinence treatments typically include non-invasive medicines or surgery. Sometimes called bowel incontinence or fecal incontinence, anal incontinence is a serious condition that has the ability to limit mobility and cause major discomfort for sufferers. In rare cases, anal incontinence may indicate a more serious health issue. For this reason suffers of anal incontinence should contact a colorectal associate who specializes in healing pain related to the anus and colon.
What are the symptoms of anal incontinence?
Anal incontinence is the inability to control the passage of gas or stool. Mild symptoms typically become worse over time, so sufferers should seek immediate medical attention when problems with the anal sphincter muscle occur. In general, a lack of bowel control is the underlying symptom of anal incontinence. Sufferers often complain about the inability to control liquid or formed stools.
What causes anal incontinence?
The cause of anal incontinence can be due to trauma in the anal region caused by childbirth, sex, age and sitting or standing in a compromising position for extended periods of time. There are also systemic diseases (e.g., Crohn’s disease, ulcertative coltis, stroke, heart disease, spinal issues, etc.) that can lead to lack of control of the anal muscles resulting in anal incontinence. It is important to tell your colorectal surgeon any medicines you’ve been taking to rule out these medicines’ side effects.
Non-invasive anal incontinence treatments
For milder forms of anal incontinence there are therapies which may mitigate symptoms. These non-operative treatments typically include changes to diet and oral medicines.
For strengthening the bowels
For strengthening the anal sphincter there have been some studies that suggest simple home exercises can help strengthen the anal region and pelvic floor musculature to mitigate the problems of anal incontinence. Unfortunately, in many instances, the long term benefits wane and surgery is typically warranted.
Anti-diarrheal drugs such as Imodium or Lomotil can be helpful for treating anal incontinence.
Dr. Aronoff will help patients learn excercises to strengthen the bowels. His in-office training is part of an overall approach.
Surgical anal incontinence treatments
Sacral nerve stimulation
Sacral nerve stimulation is an outpatient surgical procedure for treatment of anal incontinence. This treatment is used for people with weakened sphincter muscles. During this procedure a colorectal surgeon may insert electrodes under the skin in the lower back and send pulses through a generator to stimulate the sacral nerves. The optimization of these nerves and their connection to the sphincter pelvic muscles will help to improve anal continence.
Read more about Sacral Nerve Stimulation at https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/IPG99
Sphincteroplasty is another option that requires surgery for those chronic sufferers of anal incontinence. It is an operation performed by a Colorectal surgeon specializing in anal incontinence treatments. The purpose of this procedure is to repair damaged sphincter muscles by removing or modifying the muscle tissue to make it form more tightly.
Read more about Sphincteroplasty at https://academic.oup.com/gastro/article/2/2/92/597597/Sphincteroplasty-for-anal-incontinence
Colostomies are used in extreme cases and a last result when the colorectal surgeon has exhausted other anal incontinence treatment options. This operation is on the lower intestine (colon). The colon itself is brought through an opening on the abdominal wall. Stools are collected in a bag, known as a colostomy bag, which must be manually emptied.
It is important to talk with a Colorectal Surgeon to understand all your treatment options. Meeting with Dr. Aronoff in his office is private and can be arranged on an emergency basis if needed.
Why it’s important to get help now
Before choosing an anal incontinence treatment option, suffers should consult with a colorectal surgeon to find the right options. Doctors recommend that sufferers of anal incontinence get immediate treatment to avoid serious long-term problems and discomfort. Anal incontinence caused by an injury or chronic problem will not likely get better without treatment. Likewise, anal incontinence issues may have serious medical consequences if not treated immediately.