Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: What can I do about fecal leakage?

Q. Sometimes I leak a small amount of feces without noticing it. It just appears in my pants. What can I do about this?

A. When feces leak accidentally from the rectum, it is called fecal incontinence. This embarrassing condition can range from mild spotting, as you have, to an inability to control solid bowel movements.

Many conditions can cause fecal incontinence. The most common is damage to the anal sphincter, a group of muscles that prevents the involuntary escape of feces. If hardened stool gets stuck in the rectum, liquid feces may leak around the blockage. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and diarrhea also can lead to leakage.

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