Fecal incontinence, also called a bowel control problem, is the accidental passing of solid or liquid stool or mucus from the rectum. Fecal incontinence includes the inability to hold a bowel movement until reaching a toilet as well as passing stool into one’s underwear without being aware of it happening. Stool, also called feces, is solid waste that is passed as a bowel movement and includes undigested food, bacteria, mucus, and dead cells. Mucus is a clear liquid that coats and protects tissues in the digestive system.
Fecal incontinence can be upsetting and embarrassing. Many people with fecal incontinence feel ashamed and try to hide the problem. However, people with fecal incontinence should not be afraid or embarrassed to talk with their health care provider. Fecal incontinence is often caused by a medical problem and treatment is available.