How is faecal incontinence diagnosed?

Identifying the exact causes of faecal incontinence (FI) will usually start with a doctor’s consultation and assessment, which includes a thorough medical history.

Your doctor is likely to ask about your symptoms, diet, medication, bowel habits and any other medical problems or factors that could affect bowel function. This information is important because FI can be linked to many other health conditions.

Your doctor may decide to refer you to a medical specialist for a physical examination and further tests. Once the test results and diagnosis are completed, you'll be informed about the most appropriate treatment. Even though you might find it awkward to discuss bowel problems, remember that many others are in the same situation.

It helps to know what type of questions the doctor may ask, so here are some of them:

  • When did faecal incontinence start and how often does it occur?
  • How much stool leakage occurs, does it just soil your underwear, is there only a small amount of solid or liquid stool that leaks out, or is there complete loss of bowel control?
  • When you experience FI, do you have a strong urge to have a bowel movement or does it happen without warning?
  • Do you have control over passing wind?
  • How does faecal incontinence affect your daily life?
  • Do you find the FI worsens after eating and are there certain foods that seem to make it worse?

TIP: Consider keeping a stool diary for a few weeks that records details of your daily bowel movements. This will make answering the doctor’s questions easier.


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