Bowel Disorders

Bowel disorders can be distressing and embarrassing, which is why many women are reluctant to discuss issues or seek help. However, without treatment, bowel disorders can worsen and interfere with many aspects of your daily life, including work and relationships. At Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance, our specialists provide sensitive, compassionate care tailored to your unique condition.

Bowel disorders involve the inability of the body to control bowel functions. These can be related to an underlying bowel disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, or to pelvic floor muscles. Women whose rectal muscles have been injured during childbirth are at higher risk, even years after childbearing is done. 

Two main bowel disorders are fecal incontinence and constipation.

  • Fecal incontinence: This condition can occur when bowel movements are too soft, when the anal sphincter has been damaged or when the nerves to the bowels do not function well. The result may be significant stool leakage, or smudging, which is milder than leakage, but still bothersome.  
  • Constipation: If you have trouble emptying your bowels or find yourself straining, you may have difficulty relaxing your pelvic muscles. A portion of the rectum that bulges into the vagina may be another cause. 

Non-surgical treatment

Treatment for bowel disorders depend on the cause and severity of the condition. Your compassionate care team works with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs and preferences.

  • Dietary changes: Eating fiber can mitigate diarrhea and constipation.
  • Drinking more fluids: Increasing fluids can ease constipation.
  • Pelvic floor physical therapy: This therapy helps strengthen or relax the pelvic floor muscles, improving bowel and bladder functions.
  • Medicines: Medication for diarrhea can ease fecal incontinence. Constipation medication can be used when fiber supplements are not sufficient to regulate bowel movements.
  • Anal bulking: To address fecal incontinence, a bulking agent is injected into the anal canal to narrow it and improve control of the sphincter.

Surgical treatment

Surgeons at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance specialize in procedures that boost your quality of life, allowing you to recover in the fastest time possible.
We perform two common types of surgeries to address fecal incontinence.

  • Anal muscle surgery (spincteroplasty): This procedure repairs anal muscles and stops fecal incontinence.
  • Sacral neuromodulation: Often called a “pacemaker for the bladder,” the InterStim™ device treats overactive bladder, urgency incontinence, urinary retention and fecal incontinence. After a thin wire is placed in the body, you will wait one to two weeks and see if symptoms improve. If symptoms improve at least 50 percent during this trial period, a small battery is placed under your skin, and you can adjust the stimulation with a remote control.

If surgery is right for you, our specialists work closely with you to determine the best option.

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