What is Faecal Incontinence?

Faecal incontinence is the inability to control wind or faeces from the bowel. It is a common but often silent affliction. For some people there is a single straight forward cause for the symptom of faecal incontinence. For others, a number of factors will combine to determine whether the person is continent or incontinent.

For example, a woman might sustain some injury to the anal sphincter during childbirth, but still be continent. However, later in life after she develops irritable bowel syndrome or has anal surgery or reaches menopause, these added factors might push her over the edge, and she will become incontinent.


Anal sphincter or pelvic floor damage are the most common causes of faecal incontinence, other contributors are abnormal anorectal pathology (such as rectal prolapse), gut motility disorders (irritable bowel syndrome, infection) or neurological diseases.

The often overlooked cause of faecal incontinence is lifestyle and environmental factors. These factors frequently impact institutionalised or immobile elderly, where inadequate care, polypharmacy and frailty can increase the severity and frequency of the problem.

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