Prevalence of Bowel Incontinence
Unless asked specifically about it, individuals often are reluctant to disclose bowel or fecal incontinence – even when talking to their own physician. This reluctance can make it difficult to obtain accurate estimates of the true prevalence of bowel/fecal incontinence. The results, and criteria, from several studies vary in reported prevalence of bowel/fecal incontinence.
"I thought I was the only one."
"You feel so alone. You don't dare tell most people."
Fecal incontinence affects people of all ages.
- In women living in the community, fecal incontinence occurs in 6% of those younger than 40 and increases to 15% in older women. Combined fecal and urinary incontinence is estimated to occur in about 10% of women.
- In men living in the community, fecal incontinence occurs in 6–10% and increases slightly with age. Combined fecal and urinary incontinence occur in 10% of men.
- Two nursing home studies have identified a 45.0% to 47.0% prevalence of fecal incontinence among residents. Studies suggest that incontinence contributes to the decision to institutionalize elderly patients.
- Minor fecal incontinence (staining underclothes, or leaking or losing less than 2 tsp. of stool) affects 7.4% of adult males and 6.9% of adult females.
- Approximately 30% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have frequent loose stools and 20% report fecal incontinence.
- Obstetrical trauma, leading to sphincter muscle injury or pudendal nerve injury, is a common cause of fecal incontinence.