What Is Fecal Incontinence?

What Is Fecal Incontinence?

Fecal incontinence is a common problem that affects about one in every 12 adults. It can make people feel embarrassed and ashamed about the condition, but it's treatable with help from a doctor and there are a variety of products that can be used to prevent leakage while undergoing treatment such as incontinence underwear and reusable bed pads.

Fecal incontinence can be caused by a variety of factors, including muscle and nerve damage. It can also be a result of a chronic health condition or a bowel movement disorder, such as diarrhea or constipation.


Fecal incontinence happens when stool leaks from the rectum (the pouch that contains your feces). It can be a very small problem, resulting in occasional soiling of underwear or it can be very serious, with complete loss of bowel control.

This condition can cause emotional and social distress and can threaten a child’s self-confidence. A child’s doctor may perform a proctography and anal electromyography to find out what is causing the incontinence.

The rectum and anus muscles, along with the pelvic muscles that surround the end of the digestive tract, must work together to control bowel movements. If the rectum or anus muscles are damaged during a difficult vaginal delivery or during anal or rectal surgery, it can lead to incontinence.

A doctor can help diagnose fecal incontinence by looking at your medical history, physical exam, and test results. Depending on the cause, your doctor may recommend medications, dietary changes, and/or surgery to treat the problem.


Fecal incontinence occurs when a person's feces (stool) leaks from the rectum, the part of the bowel between the colon and bladder. This type of incontinence is more common in women than in men, and can happen due to a variety of conditions.

Fecal incontinence is usually not a sign of serious medical illness or injury, but it can be an indicator of an underlying condition that needs treatment. In some cases, fecal incontinence is a symptom of inflammatory bowel diseases or other chronic conditions that cause irritation to the lining of the bowels.

Some conditions that can increase your risk of fecal incontinence include surgery, childbirth and irritable bowel syndrome. These conditions may damage or weaken the muscles or nerves that control fecal incontinence in the rectum, and they can also make the rectum stiffer.

Depending on the cause of your fecal incontinence, your doctor may prescribe medication, muscle training, biofeedback, anal plugs or nerve stimulation to help control it. You can also keep a food and bowel diary to help your doctor determine what causes the problem.


Fecal incontinence is a common condition that can significantly impact a patient’s quality of life. It can also cause a significant burden to both the patient and the family.

Treatment for fecal incontinence usually depends on the underlying cause. It may include medical therapy, biofeedback, or surgery.

Surgical treatment is a good choice when other therapies do not work or if the fecal incontinence is caused by a tear of the anal sphincter muscle. In 80 percent of women with childbirth-related sphincter tears, surgery can cure incontinence.

The procedure involves putting an implant in the pelvis that transmits small electrical pulses to improve sensation and control of the anal sphincter. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in people age 18 and older with fecal incontinence caused by a sphincter tear.

Other treatments for fecal incontinence include biofeedback, a method that uses a sensor to measure the sphincter contractions and help you learn to strengthen your sphincter muscles. This type of treatment can help you develop a regular bowel pattern and prevent accidents during the day.


Fecal incontinence can be a significant problem for adults and children. It can interfere with their daily activities and lead to social or emotional distress.

A doctor can help you develop a plan to prevent fecal incontinence. This plan may include a dietary change, medicine to reduce diarrhoea or constipation and exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

Prevention is especially important if you have a chronic condition that causes fecal incontinence. Also, see your health care provider if it occurs frequently or causes severe emotional distress or embarrassment.

The cause of fecal incontinence is usually related to physical abnormalities of the anus, rectum or bladder. This may be a result of surgery or radiation injury or inflammatory bowel disease.