What is incontinence?
Incontinence is the involuntary release of urine or feces, an embarrassing and unpleasant condition experienced by over 10 million Americans. Although more common in women, it also affects men. Incontinence is treatable and, in many cases, curable. Many people suffer unnecessarily with incontinence because they don't know that a variety of treatments are available, including exercises, medications and in some cases, surgery. Since there are many types and causes of incontinence, the first step in solving your problem is to see your doctor who will take your medical history, examine you carefully and possibly order diagnostic tests to help determine the best treatment for you.
What causes incontinence?
Incontinence occurs when any part of the genitourinary system (the reproductive and urinary organs) is not functioning properly. For example, if the external sphincter muscle is weak, it cannot control the release of urine. Incontinence has many contributing factors, including pelvic surgery, prostate surgery, pregnancy and delivery, urinary tract infections, lowered estrogen levels following menopause, heredity, or even some medications.
Different types of incontinence:
A person with stress incontinence leaks small amounts of urine during physical stress such as lifting, coughing or laughing, usually because the pelvic floor muscles have weakened. With urge incontinence, a person feels a strong, uncontrollable urge to urinate. The cause is an overly sensitive bladder. With overflow incontinence, a person constantly dribbles urine and often has trouble emptying the bladder completely. Overflow incontinence may result when scar tissue narrows the urethra, through which urine passes, or the bladder stops contracting because of injuries or medications. Some people have mixed incontinence, a combination of two or three types.