What causes fecal impaction?

Fecal impaction is a potential complication of chronic constipation, which can be related to diet, fluid intake, medications, activity level, or conditions affecting the colon, rectum or anus.

What are the risk factors for fecal impaction?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing fecal impaction. Not all people with risk factors will get fecal impaction. Risk factors for fecal impaction include:

  • Bowel movement avoidance
  • Brain or spinal cord injury
  • Constipation
  • Diet low in fiber
  • Hirschsprung’s disease (condition present at birth in which nerves that stimulate contractions of the bowel are absent)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS; digestive discomfort that does not cause intestinal damage or serious disease)
  • Limited fluid intake
  • Medications, such as antidiarrheals, narcotics, and anticholinergics (used to treat conditions such as peptic ulcer disease, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, motion sickness, urinary incontinence, and Parkinson’s disease)
  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)
  • Pain in the anus or rectum, which can be due to inflammatory conditions, hemorrhoids, fissures, ulcers, or trauma
  • Parkinson’s disease (a brain disorder that impairs movement and coordination)
  • Physical inactivity

Reducing your risk of fecal impaction

You may be able to lower your risk of fecal impaction by:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Eating foods high in fiber
  • Engaging in physical activity
  • Having bowel movements when the urge is present

What is fecal impaction?

Fecal impaction is the formation of a large mass of hard stool in the rectum. While this stool may be too large to pass, loose, watery stool may be able to get by, leading to diarrhea or leakage of fecal material.


What are the symptoms of fecal impaction?

Symptoms of fecal impaction are similar to those of constipation, but are complicated when the impacted stool presses on other tissues. Solid stool and other materials can back up in the colon, while liquid stools moving past the impaction can cause diarrhea or uncontrolled leakage of stool.

Common symptoms of fecal impaction

Common symptoms of fecal impaction include:<... Read more about fecal impactionsymptoms


How is fecal impaction treated?

Initial treatment of fecal impaction is aimed at relieving the impaction. Enemas may be used to soften the stool, which can be broken up manually into smaller pieces, a little at a time. Suppositories may be used between manual extractions to help empty the rectum.

Once the fecal impaction is relieved, you should turn your attention to preventing future impactions. Lifestyle chang... Read more about fecal impactiontreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 2, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

Did You Know?

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. In fact, it's estimated that as many as 20 percent of adults have symptoms of IBS.