Watch where you sit, there’s an encopresis epidemic underway. For the uniformed, encopresis is the medical term for accidental fecal soiling. In most children it occurs when stool backs up into the colon and leading to impaction and dilation of the rectum. We are dependent on subtle stretching of the rectal vault in order to tell us when something’s there. Kids with constipation lose rectal sensation and consequently lose their stool. It’s a humiliating condition often misunderstood as a psychiatric problem.
And it would seem to be more common than previously thought.
A new study from the University of Iowa published late last year estimated the prevalence (the percentage of the population with a particular condition) of encopresis in U.S. kids at 4.4%. Based on recent census bureau information for children between four and fourteen years of age it would appear that there are approximately 1.9 million children in the United States with encopresis.
These are big numbers. Sadly many parents are paralyzed by shame and guilt afraid to discuss the issue with even their pediatrician. I routinely treat such children and can typically get them clean within a couple of months. The solution involves three simple steps that most parents are quite capable of completing. But this is the subject of a much larger post.
As pediatricians we need to do a better job of raising encopresis public awareness. As parents you need to recognize that this isn’t your doing. And according to the latest research, you’re definitely not alone.