More than 33 million Americans experience some form of urinary incontinence or bladder condition, according to the National Association for Continence. It occurs in men and women of all ages, though chances increase with age.
There are three basic forms of incontinence:
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Muscle weakness in the bladder or pelvic floor, or problems in the nerves that control urination cause urinary incontinence. In general, it occurs when the muscle (sphincter) that holds the bladder’s outlet closed is not strong enough to hold back the urine. This may happen if the sphincter is too weak, if the bladder muscles contract too strongly or if the bladder is overfull.
Smoking, previous pregnancies, obesity, diabetes, bladder disease, certain medications or constipation can contribute to incontinence. Congenital problems or neurologic disease such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or a spinal cord injury can also contribute to incontinence.
The main symptom of incontinence is the accidental release of urine.
A urologist will perform a detailed history and physical exam, so it is helpful if the patient keeps a diary for a few days beforehand to record times of urination, the amount of urine, leakage and foods and beverages consumed. The physician may also perform one or more tests:
It is helpful if the patient keeps a diary for a few days beforehand to record times of urination, the amount of urine, the leakage, and the foods and beverages consumed.
Lifestyle changes, including modifications to the diet and Kegel exercises, can help manage both stress and urge incontinence. The physician may also recommend the following treatments: