MONDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Fecal incontinence is a prevalent age-related disorder in American adults, and frequent diarrhea is a significant and potentially modifiable risk factor, according to a study published in the August issue of Gastroenterology.
William E. Whitehead, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues assessed fecal incontinence -- defined as accidental leakage of solid, liquid, or mucus at least once in the preceding month -- in non-institutionalized adults (2,229 women and 2,079 men) who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The researchers estimated that fecal incontinence affects 8.3 percent of non-institutionalized adults, and has a similar prevalence in women and men (8.9 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively). They also observed a strong association between prevalence and age, which ranged from 2.6 percent in subjects aged 20 to 29 years to 15.3 percent in those aged 70 years and older. Independent risk factors included advancing age, loose or watery stools, and urinary incontinence.
"We have shown that incontinence for solid or liquid stool or mucus affects about 18 million non-institutionalized adults in the United States throughout the adult life span," the authors conclude. "This study also confirms that the regular occurrence of mushy or watery stools is a strong risk factor for fecal incontinence and suggests that the detection and treatment of diarrhea may be an effective method for reducing the prevalence and severity of fecal incontinence."