There are a variety of causes for alterations in bowel function. They can be structural, such as nerve damage to the spinal cord nerves, or muscle damage caused by surgery, pregnancy, or injury. Some medication can also influence bowel function. Other problems and illnesses can also lead to incontinence, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Women who have given vaginal births, older people (up to 25%) and people who have suffered some type of trauma, such as an accident, surgery or stroke, have a higher risk of suffering from faecal incontinence. People who have inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome are also more likely to suffer from this condition.
A sedentary lifestyle, excess weight and diet also precipitate its appearance.
On the other hand, not drinking enough fluids can cause constipation. Alcohol, especially beer, can lead to intestinal problems.
There are different types of bowel control problems, the two main ones are constipation and diarrhoea. Symptoms of diarrhoea include: frequent and unwanted watery stools, abdominal pain, cramps and bloating, nausea and loss of appetite, fever and blood in the stools. The symptoms of constipation are: a change in evacuation habits and a reduction in the usual frequency; requiring extra effort; difficult passage of faeces or in the form of pellets; a feeling that the bowel has not yet been completely emptied; bloating, stomach cramps and nausea.
There are several treatment options available for faecal incontinence, from behavior techniques such as changing the diet, bowel re-education and pelvic muscle exercises, including prescription medication.
However, in recent years, sacral nerve stimulation (sacral neuromodulation) has proved to be the most effective treatment. This treatment uses a small implanted neurostimulator to send gentle electrical impulses to the sacral nerve to reduce symptoms.
Sacral nerve stimulation involves the use of a surgically implanted device that stimulates the sacral nerve with mild electrical impulses. The sacral nerve controls the bowel and muscles related to anal function.
Patients are advised to carry out a trial evaluation beforehand to decide whether the procedure is the appropriate solution to stimulate the sacral nerve.
The experimental evaluation involves placing an electrode (a thin wire) on the spine, attached to a small stimulator which can be worn on a belt. The stimulator sends light electrical impulses through the electrode to one of the sacral nerves, these pulses will then result in a normal bowel function movement.
Sacral nerve stimulation is used to treat the various symptoms of faecal incontinence, including the involuntary release of gas, liquid or solid stools.
Sacral nerve stimulation can help the patient resume normal activities and avoid frustrating experiences.
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