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.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms & Early Diagnosis
Learn the early warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Memory loss and confusion can be signs of normal aging, but...
Alzheimers Disease Quiz: Stages, Symptoms & Signs
Take the Alzheimer's Quiz to discover some of the mysteries behind this cognitive disorder. Learn causes, symptoms, treatments,...
Crohn's Disease Causes, Symptoms, Diet
What is Crohn's disease? Get more information on this digestive disorder and how Crohn's can affect your diet. Learn more about...
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
What is inflammatory bowel disease? IBD can include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Learn more about testing, treatments,...
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Symptoms and Treatment
Learn about multiple sclerosis (MS) causes, symptoms, and treatment for this autoimmune disease that attacks the nerves of the...
Picture of Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be single or multiple and may range from mild to severe in intensity and short to long in...
Stroke Causes, Symptoms, and Recovery
What is a stroke? Learn about stroke symptoms like sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, vision problems, or problems with...
Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Ulcerative Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and is slightly different than Crohn's disease. Your diet can impact...
Worst Foods for Digestion
Discover which foods to avoid in order to prevent diarrhea and digestive problems. Find out which foods can trigger diarrhea and...
Causes of Fecal Incontinence
Alzheimer's disease is a common cause of dementia. Symptoms and warning signs of Alzheimer's disease include memory loss,...
Anal cancer, cancer located at the end of the large intestine, has symptoms that include anal or rectal bleeding, anal pain or...
Constipation (Relief, Home Remedies, Treatment Medications)
Constipation is defined medically as fewer than three stools per week and severe constipation as less than one stool per week....
Crohn's Disease (Symptoms, Causes, Diet, Treatment, Life Expectancy)
Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, primarily involving the small and large intestine, but which can affect...
Dementia is defined as a significant loss of intellectual abilities such as memory capacity, severe enough to interfere with...
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)
Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are...
Diarrhea (Causes, Medicine, Remedies, Treatment)
Diarrhea is a change is the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal...
Hemorrhoids (Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments)
Hemorrhoids (piles) are swollen veins in the rectum and anus. Causes include pregnancy, obesity, diarrhea, low-fiber diet, and...
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Intestinal Problems of IBD)
The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). The intestinal complications of...
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Life Expectancy)
Multiple sclerosis or MS is an autoimmune disorder in which brain and spinal cord nerve cells become demyelinated. This damage...
Spinal Cord Injury: Treatments and Rehabilitation
When vertebrae are broken or dislocated, the result can cause traumatic injury to the spinal cord. A spinal cord injury can have...
The five types of spondylolisthesis include dysplastic, isthmic, degenerative, traumatic, and pathologic. The most common symptom...
Stroke (Signs, Symptoms, Warning Signs)
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding...
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding....
Other Causes of Fecal Incontinence
Examples of Medications for Fecal Incontinence
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter