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Dr. DiRocco Answers Important Questions About Bowel Conditions

March 7, 2018
1 in 8 people over the age of 60 experience some level of bowel incontinence, yet it's still a taboo topic. People are often embarrassed and avoid treatment until they simply can't live with it anymore, but they don't have to wait. Bowel incontinence is a common and treatable condition. In this interview, Dr. Joseph DiRocco, colorectal surgeon and Medical Director of GI Oncology at GBMC, answers important questions about bowel conditions including incontinence.

Bowel incontinence is simply the leakage of stool or gas. It isn't, in itself, a dangerous condition, but it can seriously affect a person's quality of life. People who experience it may find themselves mapping out their lives based on where bathrooms are or always needing an extra set of clothes for when accidents can't be avoided. Some people avoid going out altogether and become reclusive.

Chronic leakage may be caused by an underlying condition, so it's important to talk to your doctor if you're experiencing these symptoms. However, most incontinence can be solved with slight lifestyle changes and potentially some medication. Simple things like increasing fiber intake can make a huge difference in someone's life.

Hemorrhoids, which are swollen blood vessels in the anus or colon, are another common bowel issue. They can cause bleeding and discomfort, but like incontinence, they aren't inherently harmful. However, there are many conditions with similar symptoms — only half of Dr. DiRrocco's patients that have come in for hemorrhoids actually have them.

Whether you're experiencing incontinence, hemorrhoids, or any other bowel issue, you should talk to your doctor. "Fear and anxiety are major impediments to people's health," said Dr. DiRocco. "If you think you have an issue, reach out. Don't worry about embarrassment, just seek the help you need."

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