What is fecal incontinence?

Dr. Lisa Rogo-Gupta
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Fecal incontinence is when you cannot control your stool or gas. It is less common than urinary incontinence. Sometimes you will get a warning, or urge, that this is about to happen and sometimes it happens without warning.

Causes of fecal incontinence may be damage to nerves in the pelvis or to the muscles that control the stool. One way to help control fecal incontinence is to increase the amount of fiber in the diet. This will help make sure bowel movements pass easily and no stool is left over.

Fecal incontinence is characterized by an inability to control bowel movements, which may be caused by a number of conditions. Over 5.5 million Americans have fecal incontinence, which affects adults (more women and older adults), and children.

Fecal incontinence is a lack of control over bowel movements. It causes stool to leak from the rectum. Fecal incontinence may result in only small amounts of stool leakage, or it could amount to total loss of control over the bowels.

Accidental bowel leakage (ABL), also known as fecal incontinence, is the accidental loss of solid or liquid stool and mucus not related to temporary illness such as stomach flu or food poisoning. The most common causes of ABL include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic diarrhea. Still, there are many additional causes and risk factors.

In medical literature, ABL can be referred to as “fecal or bowel incontinence." Research, however, shows people overwhelmingly prefer the term ABL. This is a sensitive topic for many, so making people more comfortable is a way to increase conversation and promote care.

Importantly, 90 percent of people who suffer from ABL experience light to moderate volume leakage. While ABL is considered bothersome regardless of frequency, there are steps women and men can take to control it and live well. What many people don’t realize is that ABL, for the most part, is highly manageable and there are things you can do to reduce symptoms.

Continue Learning about Fecal Incontinence

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How long does fecal incontinence last?
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.