Encopresis is the soiling of the underwear with stool by children who are past the age of toilet training. Because each child achieves bowel control at his or her own pace, medical professionals do not consider stool soiling to be a medical condition unless the child is at least 4 years of age. This stool or fecal soiling usually has a physical origin and is involuntary, the child does not soil on purpose. In the majority of cases, the soiling is the result of loose or soft stool leaking around more formed stool trapped inside the colon.
In the United States, it is estimated that 1% to 2% of children younger than 10 years of age suffer from encopresis. Many more boys than girls experience encopresis; approximately 80% of affected children are boys.
Stephen Borowitz, MD
Bhupinder Anand, MD
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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third edition (DSM-III), encopresis is defined as the "repeated involuntary passage of feces into places not appropriate for that purpose...the event must take place for at least 6 months, the chronologic and mental age of the child must be at least 4 years."