Diagnosing Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is diagnosed using a combination of medical history, physical exam and medical tests

Fecal incontinence is usually diagnosed and treated by a specialist. A urogynecologist like Dr. J. Kyle Mathews is trained to deal with the problems of the female reproductive system, as well as the urinary tract, giving him the expertise to diagnose and treat problems associated with fecal incontinence.

The importance of taking a thorough medical history

When you come to Plano Urogynecology Associates about your fecal incontinence, the first thing you will do is provide a medical history. In addition to taking down information about your general health, you may be asked the following questions:

  • When did you begin to have problems with fecal incontinence?
  • How often do you experience these problems?
  • When you have leakage, is it solid or liquid stool?
  • Do you ever completely lose control of your bowels?
  • Do certain foods make your problem worse?
  • Do you have more trouble controlling your bowels when you are having problems such as constipation or diarrhea?
  • Does fecal incontinence affect your day-to-day life?

You may also need to answer questions about hemorrhoids. It is useful to keep a stool diary before you go to your appointment. For an example, go to www.bowelcontrol.nih.gov, the Bowel Control Awareness campaign’s website.

We encourage our patients to provide us with as much information as possible so that we can make a complete and thorough diagnosis and treatment plan.

The physical examination

The physical examination for fecal incontinence is a digital rectal exam. The doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger inside your rectum to determine if there are any abnormalities. This also allows him to evaluate the strength of your sphincter muscles, which are the muscles that open and close the anus. During the exam, the doctor will also visually inspect your anus, and he may use a probe to check for any nerve damage. You may also be asked to bear down, which allows the doctor to check the area for rectal prolapse. If you have rectal prolapse, part of your rectum may protrude from your anus.

After performing the physical examination, Dr. Mathews may discuss performing more medical tests to help diagnose your condition.

Medical tests used to diagnose fecal incontinence

The following tests may be used to diagnose fecal incontinence:

  • Anal manometry is performed to measure how tight your anal sphincter muscle is, as well as measure the function and sensitivity of the rectum.
  • Anal ultrasound provides the doctor with video images of the structure of the sphincter.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, but it allows the doctor to view the rectum and lower colon. A doctor may also recommend a colonoscopy, which provides a view of the entire colon.
  • Anal emg evaluates the nerves that control the pelvic floor muscles and checks the state of the muscles.

We know that fecal incontinence is a sensitive issue that can profoundly affect your daily life. You can rely on the sensitivity and compassion of the staff at Plano Urogynecology Associates and Dr. Mathews as you begin to deal with fecal incontinence. Contact us to make an appointment. We can help you cope with this delicate health issue.