What is Urinary Incontinence?

Incontinence is loss of bladder control. Symptoms range from slight urine leakage to complete loss of control. Incontinence is more common than many people think. In fact: 

  • Over 50% of people aged 65 and over who live at home experience incontinence 
  • Incontinence affects women more than men 
  • Women experience more severe incontinence than men 

1.  Understand the types of Urinary Incontinence

The two most common forms of incontinence are: 

  • Urge incontinence – when the bladder muscles are too active, causing frequent urges to urinate – even when the bladder is not full 
  • Stress incontinence – when the bladder muscles weaken, causing urine loss due to sneezing, laughing or lifting 
2. Know the causes of incontinence.

Many factors can cause incontinence such as:

  • Growing older – increased weakness in the pelvic and sphincter muscles
  • Nerve damage – due to diabetes, trauma and other conditions
  • Weight gain – increases pressure on the bladder
  • Prostate problems – increase tendency for incontinence among older men
  • Urinary infections – increase tendency for incontinence
  • Constipation – increases pressure on the bladder
  • Medications – some over-the-counter medications can cause incontinence
  • Lifestyle – caffeine, alcohol and other liquids can cause incontinence

3. Talk to your doctor to get help. 
Your doctor understands the medical causes of incontinence. You may be asked to answer questions such as:  

  • How often do you empty your bladder?  
  • How many times do you wake up at night to empty your bladder?
  • What prescription or over-the-counter medication do you take?  
  • How much caffeine, alcohol and other liquids do you drink daily?  
  • Do you have any pain or burning when you urinate?  
  • Have you had abdominal, prostate, hysterectomy or childbirth-related surgery? 

4.  Take the first step toward getting help. The good news is: help is available. Depending on your individual needs, your doctor may focus on:

  • Lifestyle – changing habits to help improve bladder control
  • Exercise – strengthening the bladder with Kegel exercises
  • Treatment – treating existing conditions such as diabetes, constipation and prostate problems
  • Specialty care – referring treatment to a specialist such as a urologist
  • Medication  – prescribing a medication that helps improve bladder control 

5. Good news. 
Nowadays, medications to treat incontinence offer fewer side effects than past medications. Talk to your doctor to find the treatment that is right for you. The sooner you call your doctor, the sooner you can start getting more from life. 

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