Fecal Incontinence: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Fecal incontinence is the loss of normal control of your bowels. You may not be able to reach the toilet in time for a bowel movement, or stool may leak from your anus. Fecal incontinence can be caused by constipation, diarrhea, or anxiety or other emotional stress. It can also result from nerve injury, muscle damage (especially from childbirth), lack of exercise, or poor diet.

Treatment of fecal incontinence depends on what caused it and how bad it is. It may include changes to your diet, medicine, bowel training, or surgery. More than one treatment may be needed.

Loss of bowel control can be hard to deal with. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed, and you may not want to leave the house because you fear that you might have an accident in public. But treatment can help you better control your bowels and manage your incontinence.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Keep a food diary of what you eat. This will help you learn which foods make your incontinence worse.
  • Eat small, frequent meals. Large meals may cause diarrhea.
  • Avoid constipation:
    • Include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day. These foods are high in fibre.
    • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • Get some exercise every day. Build up slowly to at least 2½ hours of exercise a week.
    • Take a fibre supplement, such as Benefibre or Metamucil, every day if needed. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. Having a daily routine may help. Take your time and do not strain when having a bowel movement.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Do pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises, which tighten and strengthen the pelvic muscles. To do Kegel exercises:
    • Squeeze the same muscles you would use to stop your urine. Your belly and thighs should not move.
    • Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, then relax for 3 seconds.
    • Start with 3 seconds. Then add 1 second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds.
    • Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times for each session. Do three or more sessions each day.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have increased pain, or you develop itching or sores around the anus.
  • Your incontinence gets worse.
  • You have any new symptoms, such as blood in your stools.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: August 9, 2016