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What causes bowel incontinence?
Fecal incontinence occurs because of an underlying disease or illness (it is
not considered a "disease"). There are numerous potential causes and many
patients have more than one reason to cause loss of bowel control.
Damage to muscles and nerves may occur directly at the time of
childbirth or after anal or rectal surgery.
Neurologic diseases such as stroke,
spinal cord injury, and
spina bifida can be potential causes of fecal incontinence. Complications of
diabetes can also cause
peripheral nerve damage leading to incontinence.
Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease,
ulcerative colitis) and irritable bowel disease may develop fecal incontinence.
Stool seepage is different than fecal incontinence. Minor staining can occur
in people who have hemorrhoids, rectal fistula, rectal prolapse and poor hygiene.
Other causes include
chronic diarrhea, parasite infections, and laxative abuse.
Paradoxical diarrhea or overflow incontinence may occur is a a person who has
constipation. In paradoxical diarrhea, stool fills the rectum, hardens and becomes impacted.
Liquid stool leaks around the fecal mass, imitating incontinence.