What is Fecal Impaction?

Fecal impaction

is the accumulation of large, hard and dry stools in the lower colon or the rectum that a person would not be able to defecate. This problem of hardened stools can be a resultant of chronic constipation. As the bulkier drier mass does not come out of the body, the watery stools on the top would begin to leak around the hardened stools leading to diarrhea or soiling.

Causes of Fecal Impaction:

The following are the causes of fecal impaction-

  • lack of proper fiber in the diet
  • improper consumption of fluids
  • kidney diseases
  • cancer
  • excessive use of laxatives
  • painkilling and anti-depressant medications
  • heart diseases
  • diarrhea medications
  • anticholinergics like nanazopine, dicycloverine et.
  • hemorrhoids

Other than the above mentioned causes, people suffering from various nervous system disorders and those who are bedridden are also at a risk of developing accumulated hardened stools.


The following are the symptoms of this problem-

  • nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • pain in the rectum
  • fecal incontinence (lack of bowel control)
  • rectal bleeding
  • inability to pass stool
  • semi-formed stools

Constipation v Impaction:

As mentioned above, impaction can be the resultant of chronic constipation. But, both the conditions are different.

  • In constipation, stools move slowly through the intestines causing the stools to dry up in the process. In impaction, large and bulky dry stools get stuck in the rectum.
  • Constipation is a discomforting phenomenon while impaction of the stools in the rectum can be fatal.
  • While constipation has several causes, the major cause of impaction is ignored constipation.

In order to prevent the stools from hardening up and getting stuck in the rectum, constipation problems must be addressed.


The first thing that a doctor might want to do to treat this problem is to manually remove the stuck stool. While part of the hardened stool can be removed using a lubricated glove, enema and water irrigation are used to get rid of the remaining.

  • Once this is done, a fiber-rich diet is recommended along with medications like Metamucil that would help soften stools.
  • Fecal impaction

    usually does not require a surgery unless and until the colon gets enlarged or the bowel gets blocked completely.


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