The Basics: Incontinence

Bowel and bladder incontinence affects almost one out of every six Americans, an estimated 37 million people. The causes are wide-ranging, including neurological disorders, enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, childbirth, hormone loss such as during menopause, an injury to the back or pelvic region, and a number of other health conditions. You may suffer from this condition or care for a loved one who is trying to deal with it. Learning what the disorder is, the types and the treatments available can help alleviate concerns and misconceptions. 

What is incontinence?

Normally the bladder stores the urine that is produced by the kidneys until it is convenient to urinate. However, when any part of the urinary system malfunctions, incontinence can result. 

The National Institute on Aging lists the most typical causes of incontinence as:

  1. Weak or overactive bladder muscles;
  2. Damage to nerves that control the bladder (g., MS or Parkinson’s disease);
  3. Disorders that make it difficult to access bathroom facilities in time

Who suffers from this condition? 

Incontinence affects between 4% and 8% of the population or the lives of almost 400 million people worldwide;  85 percent of whom are women. Incontinence is most common among the elderly. Fifty percent or more of elderly persons living at home or in long-term care facilities are incontinent. Sufferers may experience emotional as well as physical discomfort. Many people affected by loss of bladder or bowel control isolate themselves for fear of ridicule and lose self-esteem. Adults often find employment impossible.

Pediatric incontinence affects children ages 5-18 and is defined by two or more wetting episodes in a month. One third of children who wet will continue to have urinary incontinence (in varying degrees) for the rest of their lives. Find more pediatric incontinence info here:

What are the types of incontinence?

  • Stress incontinence – such as occurs with coughing, sneezing, and exercise. This type affects an estimated 15 million adult women in the U.S.
  • Urge incontinence – experienced as sudden, involuntary bladder contraction prompting urination.
  • Mixed incontinence – combination of stress and urge incontinence.
  • Overflow incontinence – inability of bladder to fully empty, and due primarily to bladder obstruction.
  • Uncharacterized incontinence (g., due to cognitive impairment).

How is incontinence treated?

Sometimes a simple diet can cure incontinence. Simply drinking an appropriate amount of water, cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks, and avoiding acidic foods can help. However, because incontinence is a symptom and not a disease, treatment may mean behavior modifications (such as timed toileting), medications (or changing current medications), and therapies. One treatment option for urge incontinence due to OAB is a specialized form of physical therapy known as pelvic floor physical therapy. Of course, even though steps are being taken to treat the incontinence, certain products are necessary to deal with it on a day to day basis. There are countless incontinence products on the market from absorbency pads and underwear to urinals and catheters. Next week’s blog will go further in depth into the types of products available. 

Knowing the facts such as the types of incontinence and methods for treatment can make a big difference dealing with the condition on a daily basis. Make sure to discuss any concerns, changes, or questions with your doctor. 

Check out Mckesson Underpads below if you or a loved one suffer from Incontinence