Summary Faecal incontinence can affect individuals of all ages and in many cases greatly impairs quality of life, but incontinent patients should not accept their debility as either inevitable or untreatable. Education of the general public and of health-care providers alike is important, because most cases are readily treatable. Many cases of mild incontinence respond to simple medical therapy, whereas patients with more advanced incontinence are best cared for after complete physiological assessment. Recent advances in therapy have led to promising results, even for patients with refractory incontinence. Health-care providers must make every effort to communicate fully with incontinent patients and to help restore their self-esteem, eliminate their self-imposed isolation, and allow them to resume an active and productive lifestyle.