Fecal Incontinence Not Rare for Women
Study: 7 per 100 U.S. Women Affected; Many Don't Tell Their Doctors
Jan. 25, 2006 -- A hush-hush health problem -- fecal incontinence -- isn't a
secret anymore, thanks to a new study.
People with fecal incontinence have uncontrolled leakage of liquid or solid
stools. It's an embarrassing, socially isolating condition that many patients
never mention to their doctors, write the researchers.
Their study ends that secrecy. Of more than 3,500 women studied, 7% reported
having fecal incontinence at least once per month.
Fecal incontinence can also affect men, but only women were studied by
Jennifer Melville, MD, MPH, and colleagues. The study recently appeared in the
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Melville works in the obstetrics and gynecology department of the University
of Washington's medical school. Other researchers came from the University of
Michigan and Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, a Seattle-area HMO.
The researchers mailed surveys to 6,000 women who were members of the Group
Health Cooperative HMO. The women were 30-90 years old. Nearly two-thirds
completed and returned the surveys.
Fecal incontinence was linked to:
- Older age
- Major depression
- Urinary incontinence
- Greater number of births
- History of births using forceps or a vacuum-assisted device
- Past hysterectomy
- Higher BMI (body mass index)
- Other medical conditions
The study doesn't show what caused fecal incontinence. For instance, for
those who were depressed, it's not known which condition came first.
Quality of Life Down
Half of the women with fecal incontinence said the condition had affected
their quality of life, the researchers report.
Of women with fecal incontinence, 47% said they wore a pad and 53% said they
had changed their lifestyle due to the condition.
Doctors should pay more attention to the problem, especially as America's
population ages, write Melville and colleagues.