Loss of bowel control due to overflow, called pseudo-fecal incontinence or encopresis, can affect everyone from toddlers to senior citizens, and can be embarrassing, no matter what your age. In kids, the problem is caused by chronic constipation: hard, painful stools can result in a child avoiding having bowel movements altogether, which in turn may lead to chronic constipation.

When stool backs up in the intestines, it can leak out of the child, leading to embarrassing accidents. In addition to constipation, encopresis can result from or be influenced by dietary changes, psychosocial issues, abuse, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and anatomical abnormalities.

Another cause of the problem in children includes imperforate anus.

Pseudo Fecal Incontinence Treatment Options

Controlling constipation is the most important factor in treating pseudo-fecal incontinence:

  • Dietary changes. Diluted prune juice can help soften stool and keep both kids and adults regular. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that can be constipating, such as excessive milk and other dairy products, starches (such as bread and pasta), and fast or junk foods. Replace these with plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of fiber, and wash them down with water.
  • Exercise. Regular physical activity can keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning optimally.
  • Bowel training. Making bathroom time — about five to 10 minutes — part of your or your child’s routine can encourage regularity. Some experts suggest offering the child a small reward for sitting on the toilet, whether or not he or she actually has a bowel movement.
  • Laxatives. An over-the-counter stimulant laxative such as sennosides may help to control constipation.
  • Surgery. In severe cases, surgery may be required for pseudo fecal incontinence treatment. Your physician can explain more about this and other treatment options.

Learn more about pseudo-fecal incontinence on the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh website.