Many people experience difficulty controlling bowel movements or gas, particularly as they get older. Incontinence is more common in women than men. Pregnancy and childbirth increase the risk of faecal incontinence, particularly if labour is difficult or complicated. Incontinence may be due to damage to the anal sphincter muscle or pelvic nerves and is more likely to occur if the stools are loose. It can also occur after some types of surgery and in people with spinal or other neurological conditions.
Tests such as anorectal manometry (measuring the muscle and nerve function) and anal ultrasound are often performed to determine the severity of the problem.
Many treatment options exist including biofeedback and sacral nerve stimulation.