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Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is the inability to control the bowels.  When you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, you may not be able to hold it until you get to a toilet.  Or stool may leak from the rectum unexpectedly, sometimes while passing gas.  It affects people of all ages—children and adults.  Fecal incontinence is more common in women and older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging.


Fecal incontinence can have several causes:

  • Constipation
  • Damage to the anal sphincter muscles
  • Damage to the nerves of the anal sphincter muscles or the rectum
  • Loss of storage capacity in the rectum
  • Diarrhea
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction



Effective treatments are available for fecal incontinence and can improve or restore bowel control. The type of treatment depends on the cause and severity of fecal incontinence, which may include:

  • Dietary changes
  • Medication
  • Bowel training
  • Surgery. 


More than one treatment may be necessary for successful control because continence is a complicated chain of events.