Fecal Incontinence FAQs

Fecal Incontinence Questions & Answers

People with fecal (or bowel) incontinence may be reluctant to mention it to their Mercy provider ― but they shouldn’t be. Studies show it’s a common problem, affecting about one in three people who see a primary care doctor. Learn the answers to several frequently asked questions about fecal incontinence.

Sphincter muscles can weaken or become damaged by age, vaginal delivery in women, trauma or anal surgery. Nerves can also be damaged by stroke, diabetes or excessive straining. The rectal wall can stiffen after radiation therapy or from Crohn's disease, causing stool leakage. And the rectal wall can protrude through the anus (rectal prolapse) or into the vagina (rectocele), causing incontinence.

Effective treatments are available to help improve or restore bowel control. Depending on the cause, treatment may include dietary changes, medications, exercises to promote bowel control or surgery.

Fecal incontinence occurs when you’re unable to control your bowel movements. This causes stool (feces) to leak from your rectum. Fecal incontinence can range from occasional leakage to a complete loss of bowel control.