Bowel Incontinence Symptoms

Bowel incontinence (doctors may refer to this as “Fecal Incontinence” or “FI”) happens when someone loses control of the passage of solid stool (waste matter). It can range from the loss of an entire solid bowel movement to the loss of a small amount of liquid waste or gas. 

Any of the following may occur:

  • 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

There are two common types of bowel incontinence, urge incontinence and passive incontinence.  Find out more about the types of bowel incontinence to gain a better understanding of the condition.

Symptoms Score

The Cleveland Clinic Fecal Incontinence Score (CCFIS) is the most commonly used scoring system in the U.S. to help patients assess severity with their doctors.1

To find your score, rate each of your symptoms by circling the number in the chart that best describes how often you experience it. Once complete, add up your total score to share and discuss with your doctor.


Scores range from 0 (not incontinent) to 20 (more problematic). No matter your score, if accidents are impacting your life, talk to your doctor. 




Learn more about how your bowels work.



  1. Jorge JMN, Wexner SD. Etiology and management of fecal incontinence. Dis Colon Rectum. 1993;36:77-97. 

  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Definition & facts of fecal incontinence. Available at: Accessed September 13, 2019.