Accidental Bowel Leakage: Let’s Talk About It

Fecal incontinence, also called accidental bowel leakage, is the accidental passing of bowel movements—including solid stools, liquid stools, or mucus—from your anus.

The most common type of fecal incontinence is called urge incontinence. When you have urge incontinence, you feel a strong urge to have a bowel movement but cannot stop it before reaching a toilet. If you have urge incontinence, your pelvic floor muscles may be too weak to hold back a bowel movement due to muscle injury or nerve damage.

Another type of fecal incontinence is called passive incontinence. When you have passive incontinence, leakage occurs without you knowing it. If you have passive incontinence, your body may not be able to sense when your rectum is full.

How common is fecal incontinence?

Medical experts consider fecal incontinence a common problem, affecting about 1 in 3 people.

  • Fecal incontinence is more common in older adults.
  • Among adults who are not in hospitals or nursing homes, between 7 and 15 out of 100 have fecal incontinence.
  • Among adults who are in hospitals, between 18 and 33 out of 100 have fecal incontinence.
  • Among adults who are in nursing homes, between 50 and 70 out of 100 have fecal incontinence
  • Fecal incontinence occurs in about 2 out of 100 children

What other health problems do people with fecal incontinence have?

If you have fecal incontinence, you may also have other health problems, including

  • diarrhea
  • poor overall health
  • chronic diseases and disorders such as
  • damage to or weakness of the muscles of your anus, pelvic floor, or rectum
  • damage to the nerves in your anus, pelvic floor, or rectum
  • urinary incontinence
  • proctitis

What problems may fecal incontinence cause?

The problems that fecal incontinence may cause include

  • discomfort or irritation of the skin around the anus
  • emotional and social distress, such as fear, embarrassment, social isolation, loss of self-esteem, anger, or depression
  • quality-of-life issues, such as not being able to exercise, work, attend school, or go to social gatherings

When should I see a doctor for fecal incontinence?

You should see a doctor if your fecal incontinence is frequent or severe. Although some people are able to manage mild or infrequent fecal incontinence on their own, you should see a doctor if your fecal incontinence is affecting your quality of life or causing emotional or social distress.

Your doctor may perform an colonoscopy to look inside your anus, rectum, and colon for signs of inflammation and digestive tract problems that may be causing your fecal incontinence.

Fecal incontinence can be upsetting and embarrassing. Some people may feel ashamed and try to hide the problem. You may be afraid or embarrassed to talk about fecal incontinence with your doctor. However, talking openly and honestly with your doctor is important in diagnosing and treating your fecal incontinence.

If you are suffering from fecal incontinence, contact us at Texas Modern Gastroenterology in Sulphur Springs, Texas. We can help!