Understanding Your Condition

What is Anal Leakage?

Anal leakage, also referred to as bowel leakage or bowel incontinence, is the loss of normal control of bowel movements. Two types of clinical incontinence exist: urge and passive bowel incontinence.1

  • Passive Incontinence: leakage without notice1

  • Urge Incontinence: Inability to withstand an urge to go to the bathroom1 

Learn more about the two types of bowel incontinence

Some things can make anal leakage more likely. Common causes include:

  • Poor diet

  • Frequent diarrhea or constipation

  • Weakening of anal sphincter muscles, i.e. loose sphincter 

  • Damage to the rectum or surrounding nerves (e.g., physical trauma or childbirth)

  • Damage to the rectal walls (e.g. from a surgery or an injury)

Anal leakage symptoms can be any of the following: 

  • Anal leakage after bowel movements

  • Having an accident before getting to the bathroom

  • Passing stool during normal everyday activities

  • Passing fecal matter while passing gas

  • Not being able to hold in gas

  • Difficulty staying clean

You are not alone

Bowel incontinence is not a normal part of aging- it affects men and women of all ages, races and backgrounds. Clinical symptoms are compounded by negative psychological effects such as diminished self-esteem, social withdrawal, and anxiety2. It is a medical condition that can be treated by a doctor- but many people are too ashamed to talk to their doctors about it. 

Find a doctor near you using the helpful search tool on this website, and once you have found a specialist for fecal incontinence, read suggestions and helpful tips about starting the conversation with your doctor



  1. Graf W, Mellgren A, Matzel KE, et al. Efficacy of dextranomer in stabilised hyaluronic acid for treatment of faecal incontinence: a randomised, sham-controlled trial. Lancet. 2011;377:997-1003.

  2. Franklin H, Barrett AC, Wolf R. Identifying factors associated with clinical success in patients treated with NASHA®/Dx injection for fecal incontinence. Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology. 2016:9;41-47.