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Incontinence 101

by Jeff Dailey

incontinenceIncontinence Questions and Answers (FAQ’s)

Incontinence, Questions and Answers. FAQ

What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary Incontinence is the medical term for the “complaint of any involuntary leakage of urine.” This definition was standardized by the International Continence Society and is being used more consistently by medical professionals, researchers and industry.
Involuntary urine leakage for any reason is more common than the general public is aware of. Symptoms are sometimes related to temporary or reversible conditions and other times related to long term conditions or risk factors. The good news is that with access to good information you can find how to reduce, eliminate and/or manage the risk factors that may be involved for your symptoms. If the symptoms are very bothersome, please do not hesitate to consult with your primary physician or urologist.
How common is urinary incontinence?
Recent research using the standardized definition of any involuntary urine leakage, indicates that millions of adults, between the ages of 20-85 years old, in the United States may experience some symptoms. Over 65 million Americans experience bladder leakage and nearly half of them are under age 50. This translates to about 1 in 4 Americans that may experience bladder leakage.
Bladder leakage is not a condition that just affects older adults, 22.9 million Americans under the age of 45 experience also have some bladder leakage. That’s approximately three times the population of New York City and eight times the population of Chicago. These numbers include both men and women, although women are about 3 times more likely to have any urine leakage than men.
We hope these facts inspire you to seek the information about the range of solutions available to meet your needs without embarrassment. It is also advisable to consult with your doctor about your urine leakage symptoms since in some cases it can be associated with another condition or drug interaction that may need medical evaluation.
What causes urinary incontinence?
There are many causes of urinary incontinence. Some include weak bladder muscles, pregnancy, childbirth, hysterectomy, complications from surgery, stroke, or chronic diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s disease. Other diseases that affect the bladder nerves or spinal cord could also cause urinary incontinence.
How does my bladder work?
Your body stores urine in the bladder. During urination, muscles in the bladder tighten to move urine into the urethra – a tube below the bladder. At the same time, the muscles around the urethra relax and let the urine pass. Incontinence occurs if the urine leaves the bladder and urethra without warning.
What are the different kinds of incontinence with the symptoms and potential causes?
Stress Incontinence

  • Loss of urine when you place pressure or ‘stress’ on your bladder
  • Leakage when you sneeze, cough, laugh, exercise, or lift heavy items
  • Causes may include: physical changes from childbirth, pregnancy, menopause, being overweight

Urge Incontinence

  • Sudden, intense urge to urinate – often followed by involuntary loss of urine
  • Sudden or frequent emptying of bladder; getting up two or more times per night to urinate
  • Causes may include: bladder or urinary tract infections, bladder irritants, stroke, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis

Overflow Incontinence

  • Frequent or constant dribble of urine
  • Feeling your bladder is never empty; sometimes only a weak stream of urine
  • Causes may include: damaged bladder, blocked urethra, diabetes

Functional Incontinence

  • Inability to reach bathroom in time
  • Physical or psychological impairment where you cannot reach the bathroom in time
  • Causes may include: mobility limitations, pain with movement, medications, arthritis

What health and lifestyle habits can help reduce the likelihood of incontinence?
There are several simple things you can do to help maintain bladder and urinary health, including:

  • Urinate regularly and don’t delay having bowel movements.
  • Monitor your fluid intake. Drink at least six to seven 8-oz glasses of water a day to keep your bladder healthy. When you drink less water, your urine is more concentrated and may irritate the lining of the urethra and bladder.
  • Pay attention to your diet. A lot of things—including caffeine, alcohol, acidic foods (like tomatoes and citrus fruits) and drinks, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, hot spices and carbonated drinks—can irritate your bladder. Take time to learn what foods and drinks trigger your leakage and then remove them from your diet.
  • Consider the weight factor. A 5% to 10% weight loss can help relieve the added pressure excess weight puts on your bladder and surrounding muscles and aid in controlling your incontinence.
  • Practice pelvic floor muscles exercises, also known as Kegels, to strengthen the muscles that help control urination.

I think I might have urinary incontinence. How do I talk to my doctor?
First of all, educate yourself. Learn how your body works (especially your urinary system) and what’s normal. That way you can give your doctor better information.
One of the best ways to do this is to a keep a bathroom journal. At least a few days before your appointment, begin keeping track of information such as how much fluid you drink and when you drink, how often you urinate, when you experience incontinence and under what circumstances (exercising, lifting something heavy, laughing, etc).
If you’re feeling embarrassed or find it difficult to talk with your doctor, write down your questions at home before you go to the doctor’s office. You might even want to practice saying these questions out loud when you’re alone. That will make it easier to say them during your appointment. Here are some questions you might consider:

  • “Could what I eat or drink cause bladder leakage?”
  • “Could my medicines cause bladder leakage?”
  • “What are the treatments to regain bladder control? Which one is best for me?”

Remember, under a doctor’s care, incontinence can be treated and possibly cured. Even if treatment is not completely successful, careful management can help you feel more relaxed and confident.
What’s bowel incontinence and what causes it?
Bowel incontinence is the inability to control your bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from your rectum. Also called fecal incontinence, bowel incontinence ranges from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.
Bowel incontinence affects more than five million Americans. Both men and women suffer from this problem, although it’s more common in women because of the injury to the anal muscles or nerves that can occur during childbirth. It becomes more common with advancing age as the muscles that control bowel movements (anal sphincter muscles) weaken.
Many people resort to altering their social and physical activities, even their employment, to cope with the problem. However, finding the right incontinence product can go a long way in boosting their confidence. To find the product best for your needs, use our product finder.
What’s irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and what causes it?
Nearly one in five American adults have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is characterized by abdominal pain or cramping and changes in bowel function, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and fecal incontinence.
It’s not known exactly what causes IBS. If you have IBS, the muscles that line your intestines may contract stronger and last longer than normal, forcing food through your intestines quicker, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. Conversely, food passage slows and stools become hard and dry. Abnormalities in your nervous system or colon may also play a role, causing you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas.
For many people, IBS causes symptoms that are mild, which do not interfere with daily activities. For others, IBS may severely compromise their quality of life. Finding the right incontinence product can go a long way in boosting his or her confidence. If you have symptoms and suspect you may have IBS, please speak to your doctor or medical provider.
What’s a “Bathroom Journal” and Why should I keep one?
In many cases, you can train your bladder to empty at the appropriate time. One key re-training tool is a bathroom journal. This journal answers a lot of questions about your bladder health and patterns and creates a baseline picture of your bladder control that you can share with your doctor.
Can I use feminine care pads for bladder leakage?
No, we don’t recommend it. Feminine care pads aren’t designed to lock in urine and protect you in the same way as modern incontinence products like Depend® Brand. Our products are specifically designed to protect women where you need it most. Plus, they’re made of super absorbent polymers (SAP) so they can absorb more fluids and lock out odors at the same time.
How does menopause affect bladder control?
During and after the process of menopause, levels of the female hormone estrogen drop significantly. Besides controlling your monthly periods and body changes during pregnancy, estrogen helps keep the bladder and urethra healthy. Lack of estrogen may cause the pelvic muscles responsible for bladder control to weaken, resulting in urinary incontinence.
What kind of bladder control problems can develop after menopause?
Some of the problems that may develop because of menopause include:

  • Stress incontinence. Pressure from coughing, sneezing or lifting can push urine through the pelvic muscles weakened from the dropping levels of the female hormone estrogen. This kind of leakage is called stress incontinence. It’s one of the most common kinds of bladder control problems in women.
  • Urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is another common bladder control problem. With this condition, the bladder muscles squeeze at the wrong time—or all the time—and cause leaks.
  • The need to get out of bed to urinate several times a night.

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