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Encopresis (soiling) occurs when a child resists having bowel movements, causing impacted stool to collect in the colon and rectum. When a child's colon is full of impacted stool, liquid stool can leak around the impacted stool and then out of the anus, staining a child's underwear.
Encopresis may also be called stool withholding. In most cases, encopresis is not a disease but rather a symptom of chronic constipation. Less frequently, it may be related to developmental or emotional issues. Encopresis usually occurs more commonly in boys after age 4, when a child has already learned to use a toilet.
There are three main causes of encopresis:
Symptoms of encopresis include:
Children with encopresis often experience leakage of stool or liquid stool on their underwear when they are not sick. If the amount of leakage is large, parents may misinterpret this as diarrhea.
If your child is experiencing symptoms of encopresis, a pediatric gastroenterologist can perform the following exams and tests to help make a diagnosis:
Treatment of encopresis focuses on clearing the colon of retained, impacted stool and encouraging healthy bowel movements.
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about encopresis.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.