Overflow bowel incontinence, or encopresis, typically occurs when stool builds up in the rectum, eventually becoming hard and impacted. As the impacted stool becomes more difficult to pass, loose, runny stool behind the impaction begins to leak out around the impaction, causing overflow incontinence. Some people refer to this as overflow diarrhea.
Symptoms typically include:
- Pain in or around the rectum and anus
- Abdominal cramps or bloating
- Frequent gas
- Ulcers or fissures (tears in the anal tissue)
- Soiled undergarments
Dealing with the symptoms of overflow bowel incontinence can have a major impact on self-confidence and self-esteem, even causing feelings of depression and sadness. Left untreated, repeated and severe impactions can eventually damage rectal tissue, exacerbating bowel incontinence symptoms and making the condition more difficult to treat.
If you are suffering from overflow incontinence, do not be embarrassed. Nearly 10 percent of men and women in the U.S. suffer from bowel incontinence in some form, almost 30 million people!
But it is also important to understand that bowel incontinence is not a normal part of aging. However, bowel incontinence is a treatable condition and, in many cases, completely correctable.
Treatment of overflow bowel incontinence involves not only treating the current impaction problem, but also diagnosing issues that may be causing the problem in the first place, such as the production of dry stools that may be painful to pass or a slow-moving colon. Sometimes, dietary and lifestyle changes are all that are needed, other times, medication or other medical intervention can help treat the cause.
If bowel incontinence symptoms are affecting your everyday life, the first step in feeling more confident is to see your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Remember: Physicians specializing in incontinence treat patients with the same type of symptoms every day, so there is no reason to hesitate or feel embarrassed. Every day that you delay treatment is one more day you have to live with uncomfortable symptoms.