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Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is encopresis?

Encopresis, or soiling, means your child has trouble controlling bowel movements. He or she may have a bowel movement in his or her clothes, or in bed at night. Your child may have these bowel movements on purpose, or he or she may have no control over when it happens. Encopresis develops in children who have already been toilet trained, usually between 5 and 12 years of age. Your child may have primary or secondary encopresis. Primary means your child was never fully toilet trained for bowel movements. Secondary means your child was toilet trained and suddenly starts having soiling episodes.

What causes or increases my child's risk for encopresis?

Your child may have a medical problem that is preventing him or her from feeling the urge to have a bowel movement. A stressful event may also trigger encopresis, such as starting school or the divorce of his or her parents. Any of the following may increase your child's risk:

How is the cause of encopresis diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child. Tell the provider how often your child used to have bowel movements and how many he or she has now. Explain when the change happened. Encopresis means your child has soiling episodes at least 1 time per month for 3 months. Tell the provider if your child has been under more stress than usual. The provider will also ask about all the medicines your child takes and if any medicines changed recently. The cause of your child's encopresis may not be found. Your child may need any of the following:

How is encopresis treated?

The cause of your child's encopresis will be treated, if possible. Medicines may help your child have a bowel movement and then manage bowel movements over time, if needed. The kind of medicine your child may need will depend on what is causing his or her encopresis. The following may help treat or control symptoms, and prevent soiling episodes from happening again:

What can I do to help my child manage encopresis?

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.