What Are Anorectal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Anorectal dysfunction is a term used to describe a set of disorders that result from pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor dysfunction arises when the muscles that support and control the bladder and bowel (as well as the uterus in women) become weakened. As a result, anorectal conditions such as fecal incontinence and constipation occur.
Urinary and gynecological disorders can also appear, and may be treated by a urologist or a gynecologist, respectively.
What Causes Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Common causes of pelvic floor dysfunction include:
- Chronic coughing
- Deterioration of muscle strength due to aging
- Excessive straining due to chronic constipation
- Heavy lifting
- Pelvic surgery or radiation treatments
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Trauma to the pelvic region
What Are the Symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
- A bulge or heavy sensation in the rectum or vagina
- Constipation, pain or a need to strain during bowel movements
- Muscle spasms in the pelvis
- Pain or pressure in the rectum or vagina
- Urinary or fecal incontinence (loss of bladder or bowel control)
How Are Anorectal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Treated?
In the majority of cases, anorectal dysfunction—as well as overall pelvic floor dysfunction—can be successfully treated without surgical intervention.
Treatments may include:
- Behavioral changes: Avoid pushing or straining when having a bowel movement. Learn how to relax and control the muscles through exercises. These are behavioral changes a physician might recommend
- Medication: A low dose muscle relaxant may be prescribed to help relieve conditions, such as constipation
- Surgery: Surgery may be considered if the rectum prolapses. A rectal prolapse occurs when the tissues which line the rectum fall into the anal opening. Rectal prolapse is typically the result of excessive straining over time to pass stool