What is Adult Incontinence?

Incontinence is the accidental leakage of urine. In infants, incontinence is expected as babies have no control of such things as urination. In young children, incontinence is more common in boys than in girls. Incontinence or bedwetting is not so common in girls because they learn bladder control faster than boys do. However, adult incontinence is common in both women and men. Women become a little more prone than men because of the effects of pregnancy and childbirth.

There are three types of adult incontinence. They are stress incontinence, urge incontinence and overflow incontinence. Others mention a fourth type which is actually just the combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence is the involuntary leaking of urine due to actions that stress or put added pressure on the bladder. Actions such as coughing, sneezing, lifting objects and even laughing are some of the actions that trigger this accidental loss of urine. This type of incontinence is due to the weakening of the pelvic muscles particularly the pelvic floor muscles.

Urge incontinence, as the name implies, is brought about by the sudden desire or urge to urinate that cannot be controlled to give time for the person to rush to the restroom. This type of incontinence is due to damage to the nerves that control bladder actions.

Overflow incontinence is due to the overproduction of urine that is more than what the bladder can hold. This leads to leaking or what is commonly called dribbling. This type of incontinence is caused by obstruction or weak bladder muscles that prevents bladder from emptying completely which later on causes overflow.

There are many different causes of incontinence. One of which is childbirth. Giving birth sometimes weakens the ability of the pelvic muscles to control contraction. This usually leads to stress incontinence. Another cause is enlargement of the prostate gland in males. An enlarged prostate may squeeze the urethra to cause interrupted urine flow, frequent urination, urge incontinence or overflow incontinence. Stroke and Parkinson’s disease could also both cause incontinence because they could lead to damages to the nerves involved in bladder control. And just like the two, spinal cord injuries could also affect the nerves associated with the bladder.

Urinary tract infection can also cause incontinence. But this happens more in younger women or those in their reproductive years than in the elderly. Frequent constipation or impacted stool can also lead to incontinence particularly the urge and the overflow type. The bladder or the urethra is mechanically disturbed by the impacted feces.

Risks of experiencing incontinence increase with age. But one should not really dread it because it is a treatable problem. There are medications for adult incontinence. There are medicines that relax the bladder so one can control urge incontinence. There are also medicines for strengthening the sphincter muscle. The sphincter muscle is the one responsible for ‘sealing’ the passage of urine to prevent accidental urine flow.

Aside from medication, someone with adult incontinence can also perform exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. An exercise commonly used for this purpose is the Kegel exercise which involves tightening and relaxing the muscles to regain full control of it. Other alternative cures are also available like yoga, acupuncture and hypnosis.

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