Bowel Incontinence (Fecal Incontinence)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder Anand, MD
woman with abdominal pain

Can bowel incontinence be prevented?

Maintaining sphincter tone may prevent fecal incontinence. This might include preventing constipation by increasing fiber in the diet and keeping well hydrated and avoiding straining to promote a bowel movement.

Unfortunately, many times the cause of incontinence is childbirth anal surgery. It may be years until the symptoms of incontinence arise.

What is the prognosis for bowel incontinence?

The frequency of fecal incontinence increases with age. Once it occurs, the patient may be able to control the symptoms with diet, medication, and exercise. Many patients may initially benefit from surgery, but that benefit gradually decreases over the years and incontinence may recur.

Medically reviewed by Joseph Palermo, DO; American Osteopathic Board Certified Internal Medicine


Shah, BJ; Chokhavatia, S; Rose, S .Fecal Incontinence in the Elderly. The American Journal of Gastroenterology;2012. 107 (11): 1635 to 46.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/7/2015

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