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Bowel Control Problems (Fecal Incontinence)

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Definition & Facts

Fecal incontinence, also called accidental bowel leakage, is the accidental passing of solid or liquid stools from your anus. You may have a strong urge to have a bowel movement and not be able to control it. You may have bowel leakage and not know it.

Symptoms & Causes

The symptoms of fecal incontinence include a strong urge for a bowel movement and not being able to control it, and passing solid or liquid stool without knowing it. Fecal incontinence has many causes, including digestive tract disorders and chronic diseases.

Diagnosis

Doctors use your medical history, a physical exam, and tests to diagnose fecal incontinence and its causes. Your doctor will ask specific questions about your symptoms. Play an active role in your diagnosis by talking openly and honestly with your doctor.

Treatment

How doctors treat fecal incontinence depends on the cause. Your doctor can also recommend ways to manage and treat fecal incontinence yourself. Play an active role in your treatment by talking openly and honestly with your doctor.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

Changing what you eat can help prevent or relieve your fecal incontinence. Keeping a food diary can help you and your doctor find out which foods and drinks make your symptoms better or worse.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

Related Conditions & Diseases

Your Digestive System and How it Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract-also called the digestive tract-and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. 

Related Research

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
William E. Whitehead, Ph.D., University of North Carolina School of Medicine