Stool Retention

Stool retention — when it is not caused by injury, infection, or anatomic abnormality — usually occurs in toilet-trained children for a combination of reasons, some environmental and some behavioral:

  • Eating a high-fat, high-sugar, "junk-food" diet
  • Drinking mainly soft drinks and sugared drinks
  • Lack of exercise
  • Reluctance to use public bathrooms
  • Stress in the family, with friends or at school
  • Being too busy playing to take time to use the bathroom
  • Change in routine, such as when a child is adapting to fewer bathroom breaks in a structured situation, like school

The resulting difficulties tend to build on themselves, causing a vicious cycle. If the lack of bowel movements continues, it leads to a condition called encopresis, an accidental, anal leakage of watery stool around otherwise impacted (or backed-up, solid) stool.

Treatment includes a combination of mild medications and gentle behavioral modifications.

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