The epidemiology of fecal incontinence is incompletely understood.
Dr Adil Bharucha and colleagues reported the prevalence, and clinical spectrum in community women with fecal incontinence.
The researchers also assessed health care-seeking behaviour, and the quality of life in community women with fecal incontinence.
The team mailed a questionnaire to an age-stratified random sample of 5300 county women in Minnesota, identified by the Rochester Epidemiology Project.
The researchers assessed symptom severity by a validated scale, as well as impact on quality of life for those who had fecal incontinence during the past year.
The prevalence of fecal incontinence was calculated with direct age adjustment to the 2000 white female population in the USA.
Altogether, 53% of women responded to the survey.
|82% with severe symptoms had 1 or more of the domains of quality of life affected|
The researchers found that the overall age-adjusted prevalence of fecal incontinence in the past year was 12 per 100.
The prevalence increased with age from 7 per 100 for those in their thirties to 22 per 100 for those in their fourties, and was steady thereafter.
The team noted that 45% of patients had mild symptoms, 50% presented with moderate symptoms, and 5% had severe symptoms.
Symptom severity was related to the impact of fecal incontinence on quality of life and physician-consulting behavior.
The researchers observed that moderate to severe impact on 1 domain or more of quality of life was reported by 6% with mild, and 35% with moderate symptoms.
The team found that 82% with severe symptoms had 1 or more of the domains of quality of life affected.
In addition, the team noted that 5% with mild, 10% with moderate, and 48% with severe fecal incontinence had consulted a physician for the condition in the past year.
Dr Bharucha's team concludes, “More than 1 of 10 adult women in the population have fecal incontinence, and almost 1 of 15 have moderate to severe fecal incontinence.”
“Fecal incontinence significantly impacts quality of life and prompts health care utilization predominantly in women with moderate to severe symptoms.”