Incontinence – what and why

Bladder weakness is more common than you may think

There are several causes to incontinence, which means it can affect anyone – women and men, young and old.

What is incontinence?

A quick biology class: your kidneys filter out substances that are not needed from the bloodstream and send them to the bladder. When the bladder is about half full, nerves send a signal to the brain that it’s time to urinate. Urine passes down the urethra, which is controlled by two muscles, opening and closing it. At some time in their lives, 1 in 4 women and 1 out of 9 men experience a problem with this process, leading to small or large amounts of urine being released involuntarily.

What causes incontinence?

There are several possible causes for urine leakage. For women, incontinence is most often caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles due to pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. For men, incontinence can be the result of an enlarged prostate or be due to various factors after prostate surgery. Other causes, for both genders,are medical conditions that disrupt the system – like stroke, dementia or diabetes – or neurological problems like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis or brain injury. Also, if you are overweight you are more prone to be incontinent, simply because of the extra pressure on the bladder.

What can I do about it?

In most cases, with the right lifestyle changes and protection you can socialise, exercise and carry out all your daily activities with relaxed confidence. In general, healthcare professionals tend to follow the least invasive methods to improve bladder weakness such as lifestyle changes, physiotherapy exercises and medical devices. If these fail to work, a specialist may consider whether a more invasive treatment is required, such as medication or surgery.

Depending on the type of incontinence, there are several kinds of exercises as well as changes in lifestyle that can lead to improvement and even a complete elimination of the problem.

There are also products that can help you (or the loved one in your care) to lead a good life despite the problem of incontinence. These products absorb leakage and neutralise the smell, so you can feel dry, secure and confident.

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