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1 in 10 People Have Urge Incontinence. Let’s Talk About It!

February 17, 2021 | By: Dr. Stephen Bennett

Urge incontinence doesn’t care if you’re in the grocery line. It doesn’t care if you are watching the second act of a play you have been wanting to see for 10 months. It doesn’t care if you are sitting in rush-hour traffic. Or if you have been pulled aside by airport security for a random check.

Urge incontinence (defined in its simplest form as not making it to the bathroom in time to pee) doesn’t care because it is a medical condition. It also is one of the most common but sidelining conditions a person can live with.

Yet fewer than half of the people with incontinence – that’s millions of people – actually consult a doctor about it. It’s a safe bet that even fewer bring it up with friends, associates, or family.

That should change.

Stop Holding It In: Incontinence Needs a Voice

The less we talk about urge incontinence, the more control we permit it over our lives, because we don’t know when it is going to strike. This is what’s most vexing – it can occur in the middle of an important conversation, while jogging on a city street, or at the start of a romantic dinner. Again, urge incontinence doesn’t discriminate because it is a health condition. In fact, it may be the result of several conditions – not simply a byproduct of aging.

So, don’t be embarrassed. Be informed, and be empowered. Chances are, more than a few of your friends and family members also live with urge incontinence.

Let’s start by understanding why it occurs.

Urge Incontinence is Your Bladder Acting Involuntarily

Often referred to as overactive bladder, urge incontinence occurs when the bladder muscles squeeze at the wrong time, usually sooner than when the bladder reaches its two-cup capacity.

This misfire could be caused by communication problems in the body. For example, the signals sent to the bladder from the sacral nerve, located at the base of the spine, may cause the bladder to contract before it is full.

But that’s just one of several treatable causes.

3 Things Worth Repeating About Urge Incontinence

The first step to treatment is talking about it. These facts may help get the ball rolling.

  • Urge incontinence affects one in 10 people in the U.S., or nearly 33 million people.
  • It occurs in both women and men – not just women, as many typically think.
  • It can result from one of several unrelated conditions, including urinary tract infections, bladder stones, an enlarged prostate, diabetes, nerve diseases such a multiple sclerosis, and kidney disease. The side effects of some medications also can cause urge incontinence. 

We Need to Have the Urgent Talk

Millions of people are vying for aisle seats, leaving the house thirsty or stopping at nearly every rest stop on the highway “just to be safe.” Talking about urge incontinence won’t erase the need for these precautions, but it will make those who manage it feel more confident about stating their needs, and treating it as the real medical condition it is.


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