Urgency and fecal soiling in people with bowel dysfunction

Dig Dis Sci. 1986 Nov;31(11):1221-5. doi: 10.1007/BF01296523.


The frequency of urgency and fecal soiling in the population and among people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and the association of these symptoms with health care seeking is unknown. Among 1128 students and hospital employees that we surveyed, urgency was reported in 14.4%, fecal soiling in 5.3%, and diarrhea in 9.0%. Most persons with fecal soiling did not report urgency or diarrhea. Although bowel dysfunction compatible with IBS was present in 20% (227), only 29% of this group (65) had seen a physician for bowel complaints. People with bowel dysfunction were more likely to be women, to take laxatives, and to have rectal urgency. Fecal soiling was more likely among those with bowel dysfunction who had been to the doctor, and included almost half of the men in this group. There was no difference in the frequency of diarrhea reported among those with bowel dysfunction regardless of whether they had been to the doctor. These data suggest fecal soiling may influence people with bowel dysfunction to go to the doctor. Physiological studies are needed to determine if anal sphincter dysfunction is a component of IBS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cathartics / therapeutic use
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / complications*
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / psychology
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Self Medication
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Cathartics