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Information About Incontinence


Incontinence comes in many forms such as urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence, which affects millions of American adults.  Urinary incontinence is the most common form of incontinence and can be managed in a variety of ways. 


Often times, incontinence goes unreported.  Some reasons include:

  • Belief among the general public that it is untreatable
  • Belief that it is a normal part of aging
  • Belief that it will eventually go away
  • Embarrassment

Examples of Risk Factors:

  • Age – as an individual gets older, the muscles in your bladder can weaken
  • Nervous system impaired – i.e. Multiple Sclerosis, long-term Diabetes
  • Gender – two times more common in women
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Physical disability
  • Being overweight – there is increased pressure on the bladder and muscles surrounding it
  • Smoking – constant coughing creates increased stress on the bladder and other muscles

There are four main categories of Incontinence.  Each individual may have symptoms from one or multiple categories.  If a person has symptoms from multiple categories, this is often termed Mixed Incontinence.  Below is a brief explanation of each category:

  • Stress Incontinence – Incontinence occurs during laughing, lifting heavy objects, sneezing, coughing or any movement that puts stress or pressure on the bladder. The cause of this is weak pelvic muscles or in women a weakening of the wall between the bladder and vagina. This weakness in women can be due to pregnancy and childbirth or from lower levels of the hormone estrogen that occur after menopause or during menstrual periods.  In men, the removal of the prostate gland can lead to stress incontinence.    
  • Urge Incontinence – Incontinence occurs after a sudden urge to urinate with an inability to control the bladder.  This may occur while drinking water, listening to running water or sleeping.  The cause of incontinence may be due to urinary tract infections, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, bladder irritants, injury, stroke or nervous system damage (i.e. Multiple Sclerosis). 
  • Overflow Incontinence – Incontinence occurs when the bladder is continually full and reaches a point causing overflow and urine leaks.  Causes of overflow incontinence could be due to the urethra being blocked, kidney or urinary stones, enlarged prostate or tumors.  Certain individuals may have weak bladder muscles due to nerve damage, potentially from diabetes or other diseases.
  • Functional Incontinence – Incontinence occurs due to an individual’s physical disabilities, external obstacles, or difficulties communicating which prevent the individual from getting to a bathroom before they urinate.      
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