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Encopresis Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is Encopresis?

Stool holding or encopresis occurs when a child tends to resist having the bowel movement. This leads impacted stool accumulation in the rectum and colon. When colon becomes full with impacted stool, watery stool leaks out of the child’s anus. The condition normally occurs after a child turns four, in order words, when he has learned using the toilet.

In many cases, the condition is a sign of chronic constipation. Rarely, encopresis can consequent due to emotional or developmental issues. Encopresis is categorized as:

  • Primary encopresis: it occurs in children who have never been toilet trained successfully.
  • Secondary encopresis: it occurs even after a child has been toilet trained successfully.

The condition can be exasperating for mothers, and embarrassing for children. Though, with positive support and patience, its treatment is mostly successful.

What are the symptoms of encopresis?

Few common symptoms include:

  • Constipation with hard, dry stool.
  • Repeated UTI (urinary tract infection).
  • Leakage of liquid stool.
  • Infrequent bowel movement.
  • Resistance of bowel movement.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Lack of appetite.

What causes encopresis?

There tends to be few causes that lead encopresis, however its common triggers are:

  • Constipation: chronic constipation is the main cause behind majority of its cases. During constipation, the stool is dry, hard and cause difficulty and pain to pass. Consequently, the child resists bowel movements, making this problem even worse. Longer the stool stays in the child’s colon, more problems it creates for the child pushing it out.  This leads his colon to stretch, eventually affecting the particular nerves responsible for indicating when it’s time to release stool. Moreover, when colon gets extremely full, liquid or soft stool can leak out the anus.
  • Emotional issues: Rarely, emotional stress may also cause encopresis.

What are the risk factors of encopresis?

Few common factors that increase the chances to develop encopresis are:

  • Chronic constipation.
  • Child’s sex, as the condition is more observed in boys.
  • Low fluid intake, as this worsens the prevailing constipation.

What are the possible complications of encopresis?

Possible complications linked with encopresis include emotional impact on the child with encopresis including anger, shame, frustration and embarrassment. In case of being punished by adults or mocked by friends, the child can feel depressed.

How is encopresis diagnosed?

Besides the child’s symptoms and conducting a thorough physical exam, the doctor can suggest an abdominal X-ray, moreover, in many cases, doctors advice to conduct psychological evaluation.

Encopresis Treatment

The more early its treatment starts, the better it is. Firstly, the doctor focuses on clearing the child’s colon of impacted stool. After which, the focus turns towards encouraging the child of healthy bowel movements.

In order to relieve chronic constipation and clear the colon, the doctor can prescribe:

  • Stool softeners for example lactulose.
  • Enemas.
  • Rectal suppositories.
  • Colon lubricants for example mineral oil.
  • More oral fluids.

In case the condition has cause emotional impact on the child, psychotherapy can greatly help.


  • Encourage your child to drink a lot of water.
  • High-fiber diet is very important for regular bowel movements.

By : Natural Health News

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