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Risk factors for fecal incontinence in older women

The latest issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology identifies risk factors for fecal incontinence in older women.

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Dr Mary Townsend and colleagues from Massachusetts, USA estimated the prevalence of fecal incontinence in older women, and examined associations between potential risk factors and prevalent fecal incontinence.

The research team conducted a cross-sectional study of prevalent fecal incontinence in 64,559 women, aged 62–87 years, in the Nurses’ Health Study.

The team noted that since 1976, participants provided information on health and lifestyle on mailed biennial questionnaires.

Data on fecal incontinence were collected in 2008.

The research team reported that the prevalence of liquid or solid stool incontinence at least monthly increased from 9% in women aged 62 to 64 years to 17% in women aged 85 to 87 years.

63% of women with fecal incontinence reported urinary incontinence at least monthly
American Journal of Gastroenterology

Prevalent fecal incontinence was 50% less common in black women compared with white women.

The doctors assessed that other variables associated with increased odds of fecal incontinence at least monthly were pregnancy, higher body mass index, lower physical activity, functional limitations, current cigarette smoking, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and neurologic disease.

Urinary incontinence was a strong correlate of fecal incontinence, with 63% of women with fecal incontinence reporting urinary incontinence at least monthly compared with 45% of women in the whole study population.

Dr Townsend concludes, "Fecal incontinence is a common condition among older women, and often co-occurs with urinary incontinence."

"Potentially modifiable risk factors include BMI, physical activity, and cigarette smoking."

Am J Gastroenterol 2013; 108: 113–119
29 January 2013

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