The term incontinence refers to involuntary or accidental loss of either urine (urinary incontinence) from the bladder, or bowel motion (bowel incontinence). While this problem can cause considerable embarrassment, it is actually quite common and more than 13 million Americans are living with urinary incontinence. According to research from the National Association for Continence, 20% of individuals age 40 or over will suffer from an overactive bladder with frequency and urgency symptoms, and some may leak urine before they reach the bathroom. When examining the population of older adults who live in nursing homes, more than 50% of residents suffer from elderly urinary incontinence. Approximately 1 in 20 people have difficulty controlling their bowels, and this problem will become more frequent with age.
People experience urinary incontinence at different severity levels. Stress incontinence may only result in urine leaks when pressure is placed on the bladder when laughing, sneezing, or coughing. Urge incontinence may result in an intense and sudden need to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. Overflow incontinence may result in constant or frequent urine dribbling due to a bladder that won't empty entirely. Finally, functional incontinence may result in failure to make it to the toilet in time due to a mental or physical impairment. Bladder control and incontinence problems can be embarrassing, but the conditions are often treatable. By understanding the causes of incontinence, treatment options, and tips for living with this problem, you can get your bladder control issues under control.
- Elderly Urinary Incontinence — Prevalence of urinary incontinence in the older adult population.
- Urinary Incontinence Symptoms — Signs and symptoms of incontinence.
- Incontinence Basics — What is incontinence?
- Types of Incontinence — Different types of urinary and bowel incontinence.
- Women and Incontinence — How incontinence affects women.
Incontinence can affect both men and women, and while it can be a distressing condition, there are many treatment options available to make it more manageable. A doctor can prescribe one of many helpful medications to assist with your bladder control issues. Urge incontinence medications can help to prevent the bladder spasms that may cause bladder leakage, and some of these medications (Vesicare, Detrol, and Ditropan XL) are also approved for treating women with overactive bladders. A doctor may also provide Botox injections to the bladder muscles so that they relax, and this can reduce urinary incontinence episodes while increasing bladder storage capacity.
With the increasing prevalence of incontinence in the elderly and younger populations, more absorbent products and devices have hit the market. Protective panty liners and pads can help to avoid embarrassing situations, and these products can be purchased online for greater convenience and anonymity. For women, a pessary, which is a plastic device that is inserted into the body, can help to support the bladder and prevent leakage.
While surgery can provide relief, it is only used in the most serious of cases. A sling procedure can be used to strap synthetic mesh to support the urethra, and another procedure supports the bladder to return it to its normal position. Generally surgery isn't recommended unless all other treatment methods have been exhausted.
If you are caring for someone who is dealing with incontinence issues, it is important to get professional help. While incontinence may develop with age, it could also be due to an underlying medical condition. Your loved one's doctor can provide a continence assessment and will offer practical advice and information on treatment options.
- Incontinence Home Remedies — Treat incontinence naturally.
- Incontinence Medications — Drugs to help treat incontinence.
- Emotional and Social Issues of Incontinence — How to care for and support someone who has incontinence.
Living with Incontinence
Living with incontinence can be a challenge for senior citizens or anyone else who suffers from urinary or bowel irregularities. Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to prepare yourself to deal with the symptoms of incontinence:
- Locate bathrooms. When going out, locate the bathrooms as soon as you arrive at your destination. By knowing where the closest bathrooms are at a shopping center, restaurant, or museum, you can get their as quickly as possible when the urge strikes.
- Do Kegel exercises. Kegel or pelvic floor exercises can benefit women and men dealing with urinary incontinence. To do one of these exercises, tighten or squeeze the muscles of your pelvic floor and release. These exercises can strengthen the muscles that support the bladder.
- Limit alcohol or caffeine. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, so they can irritate the bladder. Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake can be helpful in minimizing urge incontinence.
- Wear dark clothing. Wearing dark clothing can minimize the appearance of wet spots on your clothes, so consider wearing dark brown or black bottoms, just in case.
- Avoid spicy foods. Spicy foods can irritate the bladder and may trigger urge incontinence problems. Try to minimize these foods to prevent leakage, and maximize your intake of mild foods that are high in fiber.
- Bring extra incontinence supplies. Incontinence supplies can prevent the embarrassment of urinary leakage, but wet pads should be changed regularly to prevent urinary tract infections.
- Incontinence at Work — Deal with incontinence at your job.
- Diet and Incontinence — A better diet can help you manage incontinence.
- Foods to Avoid with Incontinence — Foods to stay away from when you're battling an overactive bladder.
- Traveling with Incontinence — Coping with incontinence when away from home.
- Incontinence at the Gym — Get your workout in despite incontinence.
Incontinence is Manageable
While you may find your urinary or bowel incontinence to be a source of embarrassment, it's important to remember that this is a manageable condition. Millions of people in the United States are living with incontinence and are able to live life normally. For many people, the start to getting help for their incontinence issues is a trip to the doctor, as medications, behavioral changes, and medical supplies can be discussed as possible incontinence treatment options.
In addition to the medical treatment aspect of dealing with incontinence, there are a variety of steps that you can use to lessen the symptoms. Carrying extra incontinence supplies, choosing dark colored clothing, and making changes to your diet can all make a big difference in the frequency and impact of your symptoms. By being proactive in your attempts to deal with the symptoms of your urinary or bowel incontinence, you can live a full and rewarding life without worrying about making it to the bathroom on time.