Diarrhea, nerve damage, pelvic floor dysfunction, hemorrhoids and fecal impaction are primary causes of leaking bowels, or bowel incontinence, according to Healthline. Muscle damage to the sphincter caused by constipation, trauma or surgery may also cause the condition.
Inflammatory bowel disease and radiation damage are additional causes of bowel incontinence, notes WebMD. The condition is also caused by cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's disease.
Diagnosis of bowel incontinence may require an endoscopy, stool testing, an anorectal manometry, nerve tests or an endosonography, advises WebMD. Another procedure used to diagnose the condition is magnetic resonance imaging defecography.
Risk factors for developing bowel incontinence include physical disability, age and gender, explains Mayo Clinic. A physical disability may prevent an individual from reaching the toilet on time. Bowel incontinence is more common in women than men and affects about one in 10 women over the age of 40.
Treatment for bowel incontinence varies based on the cause, indicates Mayo Clinic. For example, a doctor might prescribe medication to limit the bowel's spontaneous movement or tell a patient to make dietary changes, including eating foods rich in fiber and drinking plenty of fluids. Bowel incontinence caused by muscle damage may require exercise and physical therapy.
Surgery is necessary in some cases, explains Mayo Clinic. Surgical procedures include sphincter repair, sphincter replacement, sphincteroplasty and colostomy.