ABC Medical Center > Encopresis

What is Encopresis?

21:54 - 4 May , 2021


It is a condition that occurs in children over five years old who have learned to use the bathroom, but who defecate involuntarily due to the effect of accumulated fecal matter in the colon and rectum. It occurs more often in boys than in girls.

The most common cause of encopresis is chronic constipation, in which the feces dry and harden, making it painful to defecate, which is why the child avoids going to the bathroom, aggravating the situation, since the longer the stool remains, the colon stretches and fills, passing soft or liquid stools around the hard ones or causing loss of control of bowel movements, which can be embarrassing for the child and parents.

Other reasons for constipation are:

  • Low fiber diet.
  • Desire to continue playing or doing other activities.
  • Fear of going to the bathroom due to embarrassment or pain.
  • Little fluid intake.

However, encopresis can also be due to emotional problems, such as:

  • Anxiety.
  • Autism.
  • Changes in the child’s lifestyle.
  • Attention deficit disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Difficulty in the process of learning to use the bathroom on their own.
  • Stress.
  • Hyperactivity

Signs and symptoms Encopresis

The characteristic symptoms consist of:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Constipation.
  • Incontinence problems
  • Avoid defecation.
  • Recurrent bladder infections, especially in girls.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Large stool that clogs the toilet.
  • Involuntary escape of liquid stool.
  • Scratching or rubbing the anal area due to irritation.
  • Prolonged time between one evacuation and another.

Potential risks:

Emotional problems in the child when being teased by their friends or reprimanded by their parents, causing:

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Guilt.
  • Depression.
  • Anger.
  • Rage.
  • Shame.

Diagnosis and treatment Encopresis

Once the doctor reviews your child’s symptoms and medical history, they will perform a physical examination, including the rectum, and order an abdominal x-ray and a barium enema to check the amount of stool in the large intestine and whether there is a blockage or obstruction.

They may suggest a psychological evaluation to find out if there is an emotional reason that triggers the problem.

Treatment will be based on the symptoms, severity, and general condition of the child, but generally includes:

  • Elimination of retained feces through:
  • Enemas
  • Laxatives.
  • Suppositories.
  • Medications that help keep stools soft for several months.
  • Diet and lifestyle changes:
  • High fiber foods.
  • Drink more liquids.
  • Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Physical activity.
  • Psychotherapy to retrain or stimulate bowel movements healthily, as well as to treat any emotional problems.

At the Pediatrics Center, we provide specialized care to our small patients from birth to adulthood, through our pediatric, oncology, neurology, and cardiology services at the level of the best medical centers in the world.


  • aeped.es
  • kidshealth.org
  • stanfordchildrens.org
  • medlineplus.gov
  • mayoclinic.org
  • middlesexhealth.org
  • childmind.org
  • medigraphic.com

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