Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Fecal Incontinence Defined

  • The involuntary loss of liquid or solid stools. Fecal incontinence can be caused by physiological, mechanical and medical factors, including (but not limited to) constipation, muscle injury or muscular weakness, nerve damage, neurologic diseases, loss of stretch in the rectum, hemorrhoids or rectal prolapse.
  • There are different subtypes of fecal incontinence:
    •  Passive fecal incontinence: The “involuntary leakage of feces without forewarning. A small amount of soiling and seepage between the buttocks or on a small pad or underwear are symptoms of minor passive fecal incontinence. Passive fecal incontinence is frequently related to internal anal sphincter dysfunction, while urge fecal incontinence is often associated with external anal sphincter dysfunction”.
    • Urge fecal incontinence: The inability to defer defecation once the urge is perceived for long enough to reach a toilet. However, as distances to a toilet will vary, this is an inconsistent and uncontrolled condition.
    • Functional fecal incontinence: The involuntary leakage of feces due to limitations in mobility, manipulating clothing, or toileting ability or delayed assistance with toileting.
Older Adults
A Proactive Approach to Bowel & Bladder Management in Adults
Background Information