There are several causes of encopresis. The most common are:

  • Constipation. Most cases of encopresis are the result of chronic constipation. In constipation, the child's stool is hard, dry and may be painful to pass. As a result, the child avoids going to the toilet — making the problem worse. The longer the stool remains in the colon, the more difficult it is for the child to push stool out. The colon stretches, ultimately affecting the nerves that signal when it's time to go to the toilet. When the colon becomes too full, soft or liquid stool may leak out.

    Common causes of constipation include withholding stool due to fear of using the toilet (especially when away from home) or not wanting to interrupt play, eating too little fiber or not drinking enough fluids. Sometimes, an allergy to cow's milk or drinking too much cow's milk leads to constipation, although milk allergy causes diarrhea more often than constipation.

  • Emotional issues. Emotional stress also may trigger encopresis. A child may experience stress from premature toilet training or an important life change — for instance, the divorce of a parent or the birth of a sibling.
Jan. 02, 2014

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