Text Size:   Increase Text Size   Decrease Text Size
Home > Health > Incontinence


It's Not Easy to Talk About

Incontinence has never been an easy topic to discuss, especially with your aging parents. Adult briefs commercials have helped make the subject less taboo, and have helped those who have bladder control problems realize they are not alone. In fact, at least 13 million Americans (85% of them women) are affected by incontinence. The down side to the publicity is that now many people accept bladder control problems as a normal part of aging. Unfortunately, many seniors often simply accept incontinence as a natural part of aging, without ever seeking a diagnosis from a doctor.

First Things First: See a Doctor

Aging does not cause incontinence, and it's important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Loss of bladder control can be a symptom of an underlying disease, such as diabetes, Parkinson's, or multiple sclerosis. Other causes include urinary tract infection, certain medications, constipation, vaginal irritation, or endocrine problems. The good news: Under a doctor's care, incontinence can be treated and often cured.

Four General Types of Urinary Incontinence

  • Stress Incontinence is the most common form of bladder control loss in young and middle-aged women because it's often related to childbirth or hormonal changes during menopause. Weakened pelvic floor muscles allow the bladder to slip down, where it's squeezed by the abdominal muscles. That extra stress on the bladder causes urine to leak when coughing, sneezing, lifting, or straining.
  • Overflow Incontinence occurs then the bladder stays full, leaking small amounts of urine throughout the day and night. Men who have enlarged prostrates are particularly susceptible. Diabetes and spinal cord injuries can also cause this type of incontinence.
  • Urge Incontinence happens when your parent or loved one feels the need to void immediately before urination; there simply is no warning time. If the cause is medication or infection, it can be reversed. But if your mom or dad have had a stroke or suffers from dementia, the brain may no longer be able to signal the bladder to wait. Other possible causes include diabetes, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis.
  • Functional Incontinence occurs in people who have normal bladder control, but other conditions such as arthritis make it difficult for them to get to the toilet in time.

There is Treatment

Today there are more treatments for urinary incontinence available than ever before.

  • Bladder Control Training changes how the bladder stores and empties urine, and can include Kegal Exercises, Physical Therapy, Biofeedback, and Timed Voiding.
  • Management includes an array of methods, including use of products, scheduling, avoidance of certain foods and drinks.
  • Medical Intervention relies on effective medications and/or surgical procedures.