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The Causes of Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is one thing that nobody wants to experience. While urinary incontinence is fairly widespread - many adults will experience it at one point or another in their lives - fecal incontinence is rarely discussed. However, several things can cause fecal incontinence. If you develop this problem, it is important to know that help is available. Adult diapers and other incontinence aids can make it easier to deal with fecal incontinence. Learn more about the causes of fecal incontinence below.

Muscle Damage

Two ring-like muscles - the external and internal sphincter - help keep feces inside your rectum. Most of the time, they perform their jobs well and there is never a problem. Certain situations can cause damage to those sphincters, though, making them weak and susceptible to leaking feces. Childbirth and haemorrhoids surgery are the two top causes of sphincter muscle damage.


Most people experience constipation - an inability to produce bowl movements - from time to time. Constipation is a major cause of fecal incontinence, which seems counterintuitive. However, the hard feces that is unable to be expelled can become lodged in the rectum; looser stools can then slide out past the blockage, causing incontinence. Also, hard feces sometimes causes damage to the sphincter muscles, making it more difficult for a person to make it to the bathroom in a timely manner.

Nerve Damage 

When the nerves that sense stool in the rectum - or the nerves that control the external and internal sphincters - become damaged, fecal incontinence can occur. In the first case, your body is unable to warn you when feces needs to be expelled; many times, you only find out when it leaks out. In the second case, the nerves that are in charge of those sphincters don't work properly, and incontinence happens. Nerve damage in these areas can be caused by strokes, childbirth, a habit of straining exceptionally hard to pass stools, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other conditions that affect nerves in the body.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Many different problems can arise with the pelvic floor muscles. When issues occur, fecal incontinence is very common. Childbirth often damages the pelvic floor muscles; however, evidence of the problem doesn't usually appear until a person is in their mid-forties or older.


Since diarrhoea is loose and watery, it is more likely to leak out unexpectedly. Most of the time, this is a short-term condition.

Reduced Storage Capacity

Inflammatory bowel disease, rectal surgery or radiation treatment can scar the inside of the rectum, making it less elastic. The reduced capacity then makes fecal incontinence much more likely to occur, since the rectum is unable to stretch to accommodate feces.

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