Encopresis (Constipation and Soiling)

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When the children’s bowel movement is hard, more difficult to pass and occurs less often than every 3 days, it is known as constipation. This usually occurs in children who don’t take in enough fiber, drink not enough water and lack exercising Also, this can happen when the children feel embarrassed to use the public bathroom and then they forget the urge to poop. Constipation can make pooping become very painful so the children may hold the poop to avoid being in pain.
How about soiling and encopresis? What are the differences among these 3 symptoms in children?

What is soiling?

Soiling, also known as fecal incontinence or overflow incontinence, is when liquid or formed poops leak into children’s underwear. This leakage is uncontrollable and it usually occurs when a big, sturdy blockage of poop from constipation block the rectum, causing an impaction. When this happens, poop will leak around the blockage into the underwear.

What is encopresis?

Encopresis is overflow soiling that happens due to constipation. In children with this condition, formed, soft or liquid poop leaks from the anus around a large mass of poop stuck in the lower bowel. When the bowel gets too stretched, the children no longer feel the need to poop. The anal sphincter becomes very weak. Sometimes, the poops take up too much space, compressing the bladder, causing bedwetting.

Are constipation and encopresis common among children?

16 – 37% school-aged children have to deal with constipation. Constipation with overflow (encopresis) soiling has an impact on at least 4% of preschool children and 1 – 2% school-aged children. Encopresis usually occurs to school-aged boys.

When to seek medical help?

If your children tell you that they have problems with their bowel function, seek medical attention as soon as possible. The earlier the diagnosis is, the better treatment the children receive. Particularly, you should contact your doctor if:

-Their constipation lasts longer than a week.
-There is blood in the stools and small skin tears at the anus
-They have hemorrhoids.
-They have to use strong force to push the poop out.
-Bowel movements cause them pain.
-They are constipated and vomiting.
-They have a swollen belly
-They are worried about their weight gain and growth.

How is encopresis diagnosed?

First, the doctor will have a conversation your children. Then, they will do a finger exam of the rectal vault to feel whether it is full of impacted poop. Your children might need an abdominal X-ray or barium enema.

What are the treatment options?

−Don’t give laxatives, suppositories, enemas or any other bowel medication without a doctor’s prescription. The treatment options may include:
−Beginning with a “clean-out” to clear the blockage inside the rectal vault.
−Add more fiber-rich foods and more fluids (water) into your children’s diet.
−Have the children do frequent exercises.
−Behavioral training – the children are asked to sit on the toilet several times a day. Praising them with a reward for sitting and pooping in order for them to keep up and follow up the good habit.
Follow up with your doctor on a regularly in order to prevent the impaction from occurring again.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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