Overview

Encopresis (en-ko-PREE-sis), sometimes called fecal incontinence or soiling, is the repeated passing of stool (usually involuntarily) into clothing. Typically it happens when impacted stool collects in the colon and rectum: the colon becomes too full and liquid stool leaks around the retained stool, staining underwear. Eventually, stool retention can cause swelling (distention) of the bowels and loss of control over bowel movements.

Encopresis usually occurs after age 4, when the child has already learned to use a toilet. In most cases, soiling is a symptom of chronic constipation. Far less frequently it occurs without constipation and may be the result of emotional issues.

Encopresis can be frustrating for parents — and embarrassing for the child. However, with patience and positive reinforcement, treatment for encopresis is usually successful.