Nearly 15 million women ages 40 and older (1 in 5) suffer from accidental bowel leakage, suggests new research.
"Fecal incontinence is not a part of normal aging. It is a medical condition and there is treatment available," Dana Hayden, MD, colorectal surgeon at Loyola University Health System, said.
"People with this condition become inhibited, stop socializing and do not even complete everyday routines such as grocery shopping or going to church because they fear an accident," she said.
Loyola is one of the first medical institutions to offer a new outpatient procedure for fecal incontinence that often results in immediate improvement.
In the new procedure, a gel is given through four injections into the wall of the anal canal.
"The gel is a natural substance that helps bulk up the muscle area around the anus to prevent leakage," Hayden said.
"Treatment takes about 10 minutes to complete and patients are able to go home without any negative side effects other than mild soreness," she said.
The injections do not usually cause pain and anesthesia is not necessary.
There are many reasons for fecal incontinence, Hayden said.
"Poor diet, frequent diarrhea or constipation, weakening of anal sphincter muscles and damage to the rectum or surrounding nerves," she said.
"Women during childbirth often experience muscle or rectal wall damage, and it can also be caused by surgery or injury," she added.
Rather than relying on expensive and often faulty paper pads and sanitary products as a temporary fix, Dr. Hayden strongly encourages patients with fecal incontinence to talk with their physician.