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Understanding the Different Types of Incontinence

Understanding the Different Types of Incontinence

June 19, 2014

Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control leading to the accidental leakage of urine. The condition can be mild, and include only a few occasional drops leaking, or it can be more severe, and include frequent accidents because the urge to urinate is too sudden and strong to resist. There are multiple different types of urinary incontinence, and knowing their symptoms and strategies for preventing and managing them can help you maintain freedom in your life.

Causes and Diagnosis of Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the result of involuntary relaxation of the muscles around the urethra as the muscles in the bladder tighten. This allows the urine to leak out. The National Institute on Aging identifies the following as possible causes of incontinence.

  • Weakened or overactive muscles in the bladder.
  • Nerve damage that prohibits proper control of the bladder muscles.
  • Enlarged prostate (men).
  • Arthritis and other conditions that interfere with your ability to get to the toilet quickly enough.

To diagnose urinary incontinence, your doctor may first order urine tests and blood tests, according to the Mayo Clinic. You might also keep a journal that includes your beverage intake and time and quantity of urination to try to uncover patterns that may help in the treatment of the condition. If needed, your doctor may investigate further by ordering more specialized tests, such as an ultrasound of your pelvis or a stress test to see how much urine leaks when you cough.

Types of Persistent Urinary Incontinence

All kinds of persistent urinary incontinence involves recurring episodes of involuntary leakage, but there are different types of incontinence. It is not always obvious which one you may have, but your doctor can help you determine which one you have by talking to you about your symptoms and through the diagnosis process.

  • Stress or effort incontinence involves leakage with a cough or sneeze. This is because of a weakened muscle in the bladder called the sphincter. It can happen in women who have gone through pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause, and men can get it after their prostates have been removed.
  • Overflow incontinence involves the continual leakage of urine as though you cannot stop the process. Prostate gland conditions, a blocked urethra, and nerve damage, such as from uncontrolled diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or an injury to the spinal cord, can cause this.
  • Urge incontinence involves a sudden feeling that you need to go. Overactive bladder is a type of urge incontinence, and it is triggered by bladder spasms. Your risk is higher after pregnancy or if you are overweight.
  • Fecal or double incontinence involves the simultaneously leakage of feces and urine. It can occur with diarrhea, constipation, or nerve damage, such as may occur during pregnancy.
  • Mixed incontinence can have a variety of specific symptoms resulting from weaker bladder muscles. It is more common in older women, and it can often be treated with lifestyle therapy.

You can also experience temporary urinary incontinence, which can happen if you drink too much caffeinated coffee or tea, over-hydrate, drink alcohol, or take certain medications.

Panties and Briefs to Give You Back Your Freedom

Incontinence panties/briefs specifically designed for this purpose can help make you more resistant to the inconvenience and potential embarrassment of urinary incontinence. They are available in a variety of styles and materials so that they are comfortable and unobtrusive. Technology allows them to be relatively thin while still containing leaks.

Additional Approaches to Manage Urinary Incontinence

Many approaches can help you manage the condition.

  • Kegel exercises or electrical stimulation to strengthen the bladder.
  • Modifying your fluid intake to avoid overconsumption.
  • Certain medications.
  • Pessary that your doctor inserts to hold up your bladder (women).
  • Surgery, if the condition is severe.

Preventing Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is not always avoidable, but you can take steps to lower your risk if you know that you have some of the risk factors. In addition to the conditions that can cause urinary incontinence, these are some of the risk factors for the condition.

    • Being female, unless you are a man with an enlarged prostate.
    • Being older, since the urethra muscles can weaken.
    • Being overweight or obese, since this places more pressure on the muscles in the area.
    • Being a smoker, which makes you cough more.

To prevent urinary incontinence, stop smoking and lose excess weight if you are overweight. If you are a pregnant woman, practicing Kegel exercises may help prevent loss of strength in the muscles in the area. Eating more high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can help prevent constipation and also lower your risk for urinary incontinence.

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