Fecal incontinence is not only very embarrassing, but is a significant inconvenience! This is when one cannot hold a bowel movement in, and the result is an accident, with stool either staining, or completely ruining ones clothing.
The reasons for incontinence are:
Weak rectal muscles, due to a prior injury to the rectum, such as after a difficult delivery causing muscle tears of the rectum, or due to other neurological injury such as spinal cord trauma that affects the nerves that innervate the rectal musculature.
Weak rectal muscular tone that occurs with the aging process.
Weakened rectal muscles plus loose bowel movements, or an irritable or spastic bowel. While there are other esoteric causes, the above reasons cover the majority of clinical cases.
Frequently the muscles are not too weak to benefit from an alteration in the consistency of the stool, using high fiber diets, supplemental fiber, fluids, and a variety of antispasmodic medications, most people will experience tremendous improvement. Those few who cannot be helped with conservative measures may require rectal surgery.