FAECAL INCONTINENCE: CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DISORDER
Faecal or anal incontinence is a highly disabling disorder characterised by the involuntary and uncontrolled loss of faeces and intestinal gases. Those who suffer from this disease struggle or are even unable to contain and control defecation and gas loss, because they are no longer able to feel the stimulus or because of a partial or total ability to counteract it. This disorder affects 1-2% of the population, with a significant prevalence for women as they are more prone to loosening of abdominal and pelvic muscles, especially after childbirth.
CAUSES LEADING TO FAECAL INCONTINENCE
There can be many causes to faecal incontinence. Among the most common are loss of elasticity of the rectum muscles, defecation disorders such as constipation and diarrhoea and neurological disorders in the anorectal tract.
LOSS OF ELASTICITY OF THE RECTUM MUSCLES
The loss of elasticity of the rectum muscles is one of the major causes that can lead to faecal incontinence. The rectum muscles may lose their elasticity after surgery, but also after various factors which stretch and traumatise the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue of the pelvic area.
Constipation, acute or chronic diarrhoea and laxative abuse can alter the resistance of the rectum muscles or create serious neurological damage
Faecal incontinence may arise after a series of neurological or nerve disorders that control the rectal tract and anal sphincters. In particular, these nerves may be damaged or torn after excessive efforts (childbirth, acute or chronic diarrhoea) or as a result of disabling diseases such as multiple sclerosis, stroke and diabetes.
HOW TO PREVENT AND TREAT FAECAL INCONTINENCE
The prevention and treatment of faecal incontinence is achieved by paying particular attention to certain conditions that can favour and foster it. The therapies to improve this disease are varied and change depending on the severity of the disorder and the patient’s personal condition. The possible actions are:
- modification and control of diet (increasing or decreasing fibre intake;
- medical therapy (control of evacuations by means of drugs);
- pelvic floor rehabilitation (through the use of biofeedback which helps control the muscles through contraction and release in order to resist defecation stimulation at inappropriate times);
- surgery (to be carried out in case neither drugs nor rehabilitation techniques work. Surgery is performed in particular when faecal incontinence is related to rectal prolapse or birth injuries).
FAECAL INCONTINENCE AND PSYCHE
Faecal incontinence is a highly disabling disorder that undermines and limits social relationships as it has a strong impact on the life of the person. Quality of life changes totally with the rise of incontinence, which leads to changing and reviewing one’s daily life – work, sport, travel, going out with friends, intimate relationships – and the vision of oneself. Most of those suffering from this disorder feel alone, and it is common for them to experience fear, isolation and depression. For these reasons it is essential to talk about the pathology not only with a proctologist, but also with a psychologist in order to work on one’s psyche and promote psychological well-being.
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