Pediatric Fecal (Bowel) Incontinence

Pediatric Fecal (Bowel) Incontinence

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What is fecal incontinence?

Fecal incontinence occurs when a toilet-trained child older than 4 years old loses control of their bowels, including leakage when a child is not on the toilet.

Expanded overview

Fecal incontinence occurs when a toilet-trained child older than 4 years old loses control of their bowels. A majority of children who have fecal incontinence have constipation as an underlying cause. Because of the large amount of stool present in the child’s rectum, it can be difficult for the child to sense that they need to have a bowel movement when additional stool moves into the rectum. Softened stool can then leak out around hardened stool (encopresis) in the rectum at a time when the child is not on the toilet.

What causes fecal incontinence?

In addition to children with constipation, fecal incontinence is also more likely to be an issue for children born with birth defects of the spine, anus or rectum, or nerve injuries to the anus or rectum.

What are the symptoms of fecal incontinence?

Symptoms of fecal incontinence include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bowel movements when not on toilet
  • Constipation that cannot be relieved with stool softeners or laxatives

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