Fecal Incontinence (Encopresis)

Also known as: FI, encopresis, incontinence, bowel incontinence, bowel control problems.

What is fecal incontinence?

When a child does not have control over their bowel movements( past the age of toilet training- at least 4 years of age ), and leaks solid or liquid ( or mucous ) stool from the rectum at unexpected times, it is known as fecal incontinence. It is a common embarrassing problem and boys are more often affected than girls and may result from a number of situations.

What causes fecal incontinence?

Encopresis most often develops as a result of chronic long standing constipation ( starting from pain during stooling, or illness, hot weather, changes in diet, travel etc ). Only rarely is there an anatomical abnormality or disease that the child is born with, though sometimes children with emotional or behavioral issues can have trouble with soiling. In most children the problem starts with a child passing a painful stool and after that “ holds in “ the stool to avoid the pain. This then becomes a habit and as the stool collects and becomes hard in the lower bowel , the bowel stretches and the urge to stool is lost. Eventually looser stool leaks past ( or some of the hard stool softens ) and this leaks out from the anus. The child is usually unaware of this happening. After a while the muscles around the anus don't relax as the child tries to push a stool out, which makes the problem worse.

What are the symptoms of fecal incontinence?

The primary symptom is leaking of the stool unexpectedly, which can range in frequency and severity. Foul smelling gas, constipation and abdominal pain can also accompany fecal incontinence.

What are fecal incontinence care options?

Most treatment programs aim at -emptying the lower bowel of stool- establishing regular soft stools and teaching the child to have regular bowel movements by responding to “ stooling urges”. Depending on the nature and severity of the fecal incontinence, a combination of dietary changes ( fluids, fruits, vegetables and whole grains ), medical treatments, behavioral therapy, and biofeedback techniques gives the best results. Rarely do children with encopresis need surgery.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf

This page was last updated on: 10/31/2017 11:52:34 AM