KidsMD Health Topics

Encopresis in Children

  • Imagine this situation: You’re out at the park with your 7-year-old who’s having a great time. Suddenly, you notice a smell and realize that he’s soiled his pants.

    You ask him why he didn’t tell you he needed to go, and he says he didn’t feel it. You wonder how that can be true. Now you’re upset and he’s embarrassed. It’s probably not the first time this has happened — and without treatment, it won’t be the last.

    Encopresis is a problem that won’t just go away on its own, but luckily, it’s relatively easy to treat.

    Here’s what you need to know about encopresis:

    • It’s another name for fecal soiling — or accidentally having a bowel movement.
       
    • There are two main causes of encopresis:
      • Long-term constipation — Your toilet-trained child becomes constipated — for any number of reasons — which stretches his intestine and rectum until he cannot effectively hold the stool and it leaks out.
         
      • Toilet refusal (much less common) — Your child has never been toilet trained and refuses to have a bowel movement in the toilet, which leads to constipation and encopresis.

    How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches encopresis

    Encopresis can have serious psychological consequences for a child, including humiliation and shame. Boston Children’s Division of Developmental Medicine treats the whole child — physically and psychologically.

    A compassionate team of professionals will address your child's physical symptoms and emotional well-being and help your child learn to have regular bowel movements on the toilet.

    Encopresis: Reviewed by Leonard Rappaport, MD, MS, and Kimberly Dunn, PNP.
    © Boston Children’s Hospital, 2010

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