CHICAGO—Fecal incontinence, or the inability to control the bowels, is a highly underreported and stigmatized condition, according to colorectal surgeons at Loyola University Health System (LUHS).
“This is a debilitating condition, which drastically affects a person’s quality of life," said Dana Hayden, MD, MPH, colorectal surgeon, LUHS. “People with fecal incontinence avoid leaving the house to prevent an embarrassing accident from happening in public."
Fecal incontinence is more common in older adults, and although it affects women more commonly, men can also suffer from this disorder. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including damage to the pelvic nerves or muscles from trauma such as childbirth, and anal or rectal surgery; diseases like diabetes; or complications from radiation. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that more than 18 million Americans have fecal incontinence, yet Loyola doctors believe it is much higher.
“Fecal incontinence isn’t something that people talk about, yet we know from our practice that it is extremely common," said Dr. Hayden, who also is an assistant professor in the Division of Colorectal Surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “The good news is there are options to manage this condition."