Fecal Incontinence: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Fecal incontinence refers to the inability to hold feces (stool) in the rectum. This is typically due to failure of voluntary control over the anal sphincters, permitting untimely passage of feces and gas. Fecal incontinence is also known as rectal incontinence or bowel incontinence. Fecal incontinence is not a disease itself but is a symptom that can occur as a result of different kinds of diseases or injuries. Incontinence of stool can result from damage to the nerves or muscles of the rectum and anus, or conditions affecting the intestines. Overflow incontinence, also known as paradoxical diarrhea, occurs in people with chronic constipation when stool fills the rectum, hardens, and becomes impacted. Liquid stool then may leak around the fecal mass, producing symptoms similar to incontinence.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/22/2017

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