Bowel Incontinence Diagnosis

Help is available

Fecal incontinence is not a normal part of aging. It is a medical problem, and most people can get some relief with the right treatment. Simply knowing more about your particular condition can give you a better sense of control. The first step is to talk to your doctor.

A doctor can usually make a diagnosis based on a physical exam, your medical history, and tests that will provide better insight about your condition. The tests can be completed during an outpatient visit.

Tests to diagnose fecal incontinence may include:

  • Anal Manometry Test1- uses pressure sensors and a balloon that can be inflated in the rectum to check the sensitivity and function of the rectum. It also checks the tightness of the anal sphincter muscles, and if they are too weak to function. The test takes about 30 minutes, and no anesthesia is required.

  • Anorectal ultrasound1-  uses a device, called a transducer, that bounces safe, painless sound waves off of organs to create an image of their structure. This ultrasound is specific to the anus and rectum and checks the structure of the anal sphincter muscles. The ultrasound is performed in a doctor’s office, hospital or outpatient center and no anesthesia is required.

  • Stool tests-  check to see if there’s a reason for diarrhea (such as infection)

  • Sigmoidoscopy-  A camera fitted into a thin tube is used to see if there are problems such as tumors, inflammation, or scar tissue in the rectum or colon

  • DRE (Digital Rectal Exam)- physical exam used to identify patients with fecal impaction and overflow

Fecal incontinence can be treated. Find a doctor near you to talk about your options.  




Read more about available treatment options for fecal incontinence.



  1. UCSF Center for Colorectal Surgery. Fecal incontinence. Available at http://colorectal.surgery.ucsf.edu. Accessed September 13, 2019.