Anal Incontinence Causes and Diagnoses
Anal incontinence or accidental bowel leakage usually occurs because the anal sphincter and pelvic floor muscles are not functioning properly. The anal sphincter muscle is a circular muscle that surrounds the anal canal, and the pelvic floor muscles (levator ani) form a sling around the anal canal.
Both the anal sphincter and pelvic floor muscles help women control their stools. Damage to these muscles is usually attributed to childbirth and/or aging. The muscles may be torn or the nerves that help them function may be damaged leading to impaired function of the continence mechanism.
Sometimes, anal sphincter injuries are recognized in the delivery room; however, often they are not as obvious and don't become a problem until later in life. Many women may experience anal incontinence from loss of muscle strength as they get older.
Common risk factors for anal incontinence include:
If you have anal incontinence, a pelvic floor specialist in urogynecology or colorectal surgery can provide evaluation and treatment of your symptoms. To better evaluate your symptoms, a pelvic floor specialist might
A urogynecologist or colorectal surgeon might also conduct tests that could include:
Pelvic Floor Disorder Video Overview
Margaret G. Mueller, MD, discusses pelvic floor disorders, symptoms and treatment options.