How to Treat Rectal Leakage (Incontinence) and Other Important Facts

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Are you suffering from rectal leakage? There’s hope! You’re going to learn how your condition can be treated. You’ll know you’re suffering from rectal leakage, or fecal incontinence, if you’re unable to control your bowel movements, causing your feces (stool) to leak accidentally from your rectum.

You may either suffer from passive leakage or an active urgent sensation of impending leakage. In the former case, you’ll not be aware when stool or mucus oozes from your anus. In the latter case, you’ll feel the urgent need to have a bowel movement before barely making it to the toilet.

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What causes Fecal Incontinence?

The causes of rectal leakage include constipation, diarrhea, and nerve or muscle damage. The nerve or muscle damage may occur during childbirth, or it may result from aging. Whatever the case, rectal leakage may embarrass you, and therefore you may be reluctant to seek help. Treatments are available that can help improve your rectal leakage so you can lead an everyday life.

How to Treat Fecal Incontinence

When suffering from fecal incontinence, the best option is to contact a medical practitioner. The doctor will assess your situation and decide which treatment regimen is best for your case. Simple treatments may include bowel training, medicine, dietary changes, or simple exercises. The course of action taken by your doctor will depend on the cause of your incontinence. The doctor may use any of the following modes of treatment alone or in combination.

1. Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback therapy involves the use of special devices to help you exercise your pelvic muscles. These exercises are known as Kegel exercises.  By undertaking these exercises, the muscles of the floor (also known as the levator muscles) will become stronger, thus helping to control or stop the inadvertent flow of feces or mucus.

This therapy will help you sense when your rectum is filling with stool if you suffer from passive incontinence. If you are suffering from urge incontinence, the treatment will help you control the urgency sensation so you can control your rectal contents until you can reach the toilet.

It is better to go for biofeedback therapy rather than trying to exercise your pelvic floor muscles on your own. Let your doctor recommend the best biofeedback device or machine.

2.  Stimulation of the Sacral Nerves

Your sacral nerves control sensation and musculature of your rectum, colon, and anal  sphincters. Your doctor may use electrical pulses to stimulate your sacral nerves if they are not working as expected. In this procedure, while under anesthesia, the doctor will place thin wires near your sacral nerves (under the skin) above your tailbone. The doctor will then use a special device to send electrical pulses to your sacral nerves via the wires. These electrical pulses do not hurt. If successful, this procedure should restore your ability to control your rectum.

3. Prescription Medicines

If your incontinence results from ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon), or other medical conditions, your doctor may opt for prescription medicines. Your doctor will prescribe medications that will treat these conditions so you can empty your rectum at a time of your choosing.

4.  Vaginal Balloons

If you are a woman suffering from rectal leakage, the doctor may recommend a vaginal balloon. The balloon will be inserted into your vagina and then inflated using a special device. Once inflated, the balloon will put pressure on your rectal wall through your vaginal wall. That pressure will stop feces from passing. You’ll be able to inflate and deflate the balloon to control your bowel movement.

5.   Bulking Agents

A doctor can inject bulking agents into your anal walls to support the tissues around your anus. These bulking agents are non-absorbable and are not harmful or toxic. The injectable agent will bulk up the anal tissues, making your anal opening tighter and better able to control your continence.

6.  Surgery

Your doctor will help you decide whether you need surgery to correct your situation. Surgery is always the last option after all other treatment methods fail. However, your doctor may recommend surgery as the first option if your condition was caused by an injury to your anal sphincters or pelvic muscles. The surgical procedures you may undergo, include:

Artificial Anal Sphincter

In this surgery, the doctor will place an anal cuff around your anus and implant a small pump under your skin to deflate or inflate the cuff. When the cuff is inflated, the anal opening is closed, thereby preventing a bowel movement. However, this procedure has several risks, including infection and erosion of the device.


This procedure is used to correct anal sphincter muscles damaged during an accident or childbirth. It is a standard procedure for treating fecal incontinence.


A colostomy to treat incontinence is not commonly used, particularly because it interferes with the patients’ quality of life. Although leakage will be eliminated, There are other aspects that will be inconvenient to manage postoperatively.  In this procedure, an opening will be made in your abdominal wall through which your colon will be brought out. The feces will collect in a bag outside your abdomen. This surgery should be the last resort if all else fails.

Other Surgeries

Apart from the above surgical procedures, your doctor may recommend other surgeries such as

Depending on your condition, your doctor will choose the best treatment option. The doctor may also recommend ways to relieve rectal discomfort and cope with your bowel incontinence.

How can you Manage your Rectal Leakage?

While undergoing therapy or treatment, or after you’ve undergone surgery, it’s best to take steps that can help you recover faster. Some things you can do include:

  • Wear absorbent pads
  • Change your diet – If your condition is caused by diarrhea, your doctor will recommend avoiding foods that worsen your diarrhea. You can also reduce the amount of food you eat.
  • Use over-the-counter drugs – Some OTC drugs can help you control your rectal leakage. Your doctor will recommend the best OTC drugs.
  • Train your bowel – To strengthen your muscles, try to hold the stool longer if possible.
  • Exercises your pelvic floor musclesKegel exercises can help control rectal leakage. Relaxing and tightening your pelvic floor muscles several times a day will help strengthen the muscles around your rectum, pelvic floor, and anus.

Whatever you are doing, ensure that your doctor is involved in the plan. The doctor will ensure you are doing the right therapy in the right way.


If you are experiencing rectal leakage, keep yourself as clean as possible. Gently wash your anal area once you’ve used the toilet and keep the area dry. Do not use soap during cleaning as the soap may inflame the area and worsen the leakage.  Also, change your underwear once it gets soiled.

Your physician will talk with you, examine you and recommend the best course of treatment.

As always, we’re available to assist and help answer any questions for you at (310) 273-2310.

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