Common Causes of Bowel Incontinence

Some things can make fecal incontinence (FI) 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, such as physical trauma

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

Causes of bowel incontinence in females:

Did you know that in younger populations,  fecal incontinence is 8 times more common in women than in men?1 Childbirth is recognized as a common cause – onset of bowel incontinence in females can present immediately after childbirth or be delayed several years.1

Causes of bowel incontinence in elderly:

Fecal incontinence affects up to 8% of adult population over 65 years old.1 This is because muscles in the rectum and anus naturally weaken with age, while other nearby structures in the pelvis area loosen with age – leading to problems with stool control. And because loose stool is more difficult to control than solid stool, when it arrives rapidly in the rectum there may not be enough warning to reach the restroom in time.2

Remember- you are not alone

Recent research shows that up to 18% of the general population worldwide suffer from FI.3 However, due to the shame and emotional toll of this condition- many people avoid seeking treatment, and the number of cases is likely higher.4

Bowel incontinence is not a normal part of aging- it affects men and women of all ages, races and backgrounds. FI is a medical condition that can be treated by a doctor- but many people are too ashamed to talk to their doctors about it. 




  1. Dodi G, Jongen J, de la Portilla F, et al. Open-label, noncomparative, multicenter study to evaluate efficacy and safety of NASHA/Dx Gel as a bulking agent for the treatment of fecal incontinence. Gastroenterology Research and Practice. 2010;467136.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Fecal (bowel) incontinence. Available at Accessed September 13, 2019. 

  3. Paquette IM, Varma MG, Kaiser AM, Steele SR, Rafferty JF. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons’ Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Fecal Incontinence. Dis Colon Rectum. 2015;58:623–636.

  4. Irwin T, Snow AR, Orton TS, Elliot C. Endoscopic, ultrasonographic, and histologic descriptions of dextranomer/hyaluronic acid in a case of fecal incontinence. Case Reports in Pathology. 2018.