Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Fecal Incontinence

Fecal Incontinence can be caused by a number of conditions, including:

  • Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities 
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Infections, injuries or diseases of the nervous system
  • Damage to the colon, rectum or anus from injury or surgery
  • Tumors
  • Vaginal childbirth
  • Pelvic floor weakness
  • Rectal prolapse (rectum bulging down into the anus)
  • Rectocele (rectum pushing into the vagina)
  • Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Side effect of medication and food additives
  • Stress
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hemorrhoids

Diagnosing fecal incontinence

Diagnosis of fecal incontinence begins with a thorough physical exam and description of your symptoms. To determine the cause of the fecal incontinence, your physician may use: 

  • Anal manometry: A pressure-sensitive tube is passed through your rectum to measure pressure inside your anus and rectum.
  • Multi-resonance imaging (MRI): This test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of your anus and rectum.
  • Anorectal ultrasound: Ultrasound testing uses reflected sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. Unlike an X-ray or CT scan, there is no ionizing radiation exposure.
  • Proctography: This type of X-ray determines how much stool you can store in your rectum and how your body handles stool.
  • Proctosigmoidoscopy: An endoscope (long, flexible tube) with a lighted camera is inserted in your rectum and lower intestine, allowing your physician to view any scars or inflammation.
  • Anal electromyography: This tests looks for nerve damage in the  rectum and pelvic floor.