Bowel incontinence is the impaired ability to control gas or stool release due to a severed or weakened anal muscle caused by childbirth, old age or other nerve or muscle injury.
Diagnosis of the extent of impairment is done through examination of the affected area, frequently followed by a test to record pressure as a patient tightens the anal muscles (manometry), and an ultrasound probe to visualize muscle injury.
Mild incontinence can be addressed by dietary changes, the use of constipation medicine and simple home exercises to strengthen muscles. In other cases, biofeedback may be used to help patients sense when stool is ready to be evacuated and to strengthen weak muscles, or anal muscles may be repaired with surgery. Finally, there are also new treatment options which include injection of a bulking agent in the anus or placement of a nerve stimulator to help control bowel movements.