Fecal Incontinence FAQs

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.

What's fecal incontinence?

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. 

What causes loss of bowel control?

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.

How do you control fecal 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.

Find a Gastroenterologist

Mercy has fecal incontinence specialists across most our communities. 

Find a gastroenterologist near you.