By Karen Best Wright, B.S. Community Heath Education
Incontinence is the loss of bladder or bowel control. It is not a disease; it is a symptom of a condition. But it can be embarrassing for anyone regardless of the reason. It is estimated that over 25 million Americans are affected in varying degrees by incontinence, and 85% of them are women. Incontinence should not be accepted as merely a result of normal aging. A broad range of conditions and disorders can cause incontinence, including weak pelvic floor muscles, birth defects, injuries to the pelvic region or to the spinal cord, neurological diseases, infection, and degenerative changes associated with aging. It can also occur as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. It is found that women have a higher occurrence of incontinence after menopause.
Regardless of the cause of incontinence and whether or not it is a major problem, quality incontinent products prove invaluable to millions of Americans. Incontinent products such as Attends, Poise, or Depends can be purchased in retails stores or easily online. Many people prefer to order incontinent products discreetly online.
After about the age of 40, men and women lose about a half a pound of muscle a year which is replaced by body fat. After menopause women can lose twice that amount of muscle. Unless measures are taken to increase lean body tissue through exercise, muscular strength will continue to decline including internal muscles. As the pelvic floor muscles weaken, the likelihood of incontinence increases.
Basic types of Urinary Incontinence
- Stress Uninary Incontinence (SUI) occurs because of weak pelvic floor muscles and/or a deficient urethral sphincter, causing the bladder to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or any body movement which puts pressure on the bladder.
- Urgency Urinary Incontinence (UUI) and overactive Bladder is the urgent need to pass urine and the inability to get to a toilet in time. This occurs when nerve passages along the pathway from the bladder to the brain are damaged, causing a sudden bladder contraction that cannot be consciously inhibited. Stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple schlerosis (MS) can all cause urge incontinence.
- Mixed Incontinence is when symptoms of both Stress and Urgency type incontinence exist.
- Chronic Retention of Urine or Overflow Incontinence refers to leakage that occurs when the quantity of urine produced exceeds the bladder’s holding capacity. It can result from diabetes, pelvic trauma, extensive pelvic surgery, pelvic organ prolapse in women, enlarged prostate in men, injuries to the spinal cord, shingles, multiple schlerosis, Parkinsong’s Disease, or polio.
What are Common Causes of Bladder Weakness?
- Relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles, often seen in women who have had several children.
- Weakened pelvic muscles occurring after menopause.
- Infections of the bladder or urinary tract.
- Nervous system disorders.
- Irritation to the bladder caused by caffeine, alcohol, or certain medications.
- Reduced muscle strength due to aging
Treatment Options for Incontinence
Because there are various causes for incontinence, a physical examination by a health care professional is essential in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. A thorough examination by a Urologist may include X-rays, blood tests, urine analysis, special tests to determine bladder capacity, sphincter condition, urethral pressure, and the amount of urine left in the bladder after voiding.
There are Three Major Categories of Incontinence Treatment: Behavioral, Pharmacological, and Surgical.
- Behavioral Techniques may include actually scheduling when to go to the bathroom, not waiting too long. It is likely to include strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through Pelvic Muscle Exercises known as Kegal exercises. Click here for more information provided by the National Association for Continence.
- Pharmacological Treatment (medication) can be prescribed when necessary and appropriate by a healthcare provider.
- Surgical Treatment is usually performed as a last resort and may not solve all problems. The type of surgery performed will be determine by a healthcare specialist and will depend on the cause of the incontinence.
When there is no cure for incontinence, there are devices or products to help manage the problem. These include absorbent incontinent products (products such as Poise, Depends, and Attends), external collection systems, catheters, pelvic organ support devices, penile compression devices, and urethral inserts (plugs).
Incontinence should never be accepted as a necessary and inevitable part of aging. Always consult a physician at the first signs of incontinence.