Objective: The aim of this study was to characterize factors associated with care seeking among women with accidental bowel leakage (ABL).
Methods: A secondary analysis of 938 women with ABL identified in a community-based Internet survey of 5817 US women 45 years or older was performed. Demographics, medical history, incontinence severity, quality of life, coping, and care seeking were assessed using questions derived from validated questionnaires. Accidental bowel leakage was defined as at least 1 episode of stool leakage in the past year in the absence of acute diarrheal illness. Women with ABL were asked, “Have you ever talked to a physician about accidental leakage of stool and/or gas?” and were designated “care seekers” if they responded affirmatively. Factors associated with care seeking on univariate analysis with P < 0.1 were included in a multivariate model.
Results: The response rate overall was 85% (5817/6873) with 1096 women (19%) reporting ABL. Care-seeking data were available for 938 (86%). Of these, 85% were white, 6% were black/African American, 5% were of Hispanic/Latina/Spanish origin, and 4% other; median age was 55 to 59 years (range, 45 to 49, >75 years), and 87% were insured. Only 29% (268/938) of those with ABL sought care. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that care seekers were more likely to have a primary care physician (PCP), to have heard of ABL, and to have suffered longer with more severe leakage.
Conclusions: More than two thirds of women with ABL do not seek care. Because those with a PCP and those who have heard of the condition are more likely to seek care, educating the public about ABL and encouraging establishment of care and communication with a PCP may decrease silent suffering.