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Updated September 16, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: Incontinence is the involuntary passing of stool from the bowel or urine from the bladder. There are a wide variety of causes for bowel incontinence, including constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), and weakened muscles in the anorectum (such as from aging or after having a baby).

Urinary incontinence may be caused by a wide variety of things, including urinary tract infection, bladder irritation, certain medications, interstitial cystitis, overactive bladder, pregnancy, and weakened urogenital tract muscles after childbirth.


Chaudhary BN, Chadwick M, Roe AM. "Selecting patients with faecal incontinence for anal sphincter surgery: the influence of irritable bowel syndrome.." Colorectal Dis Aug 2010; 12:750-753. 15 Sept 2013.

Lui PD. "Interstitial Cystitis." The Merck Manuals Aug 2007. 15 Sept 2013.

Also Known As: fecal soiling, fecal incontinence, overactive bladder, stress incontinence, overflow incontinence

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