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Incontinence: 4 Things You May Not Know

Incontinence is not an issue that most adults feel comfortable speaking about. Perhaps the reason lies in the nature of the problem.  Or, it may be that most people think it is normal to sometimes leak urine.  Yet another reason may be due to the plethora of myths associated with incontinence.  Whatever the reason, the need to address this issue, and the myths associated with it has arrived.

Laid out in this blog post, you will find four (4) extremely helpful insights into the problems/myths associated with incontinence; besides valuable information to help you combat incontinence in a positive way – and some insights which will create an awareness about your UI (Urinary Incontinence) problems.

Some Myths

First things first:  I would like to tackle some common myths that have taken root among people in all demographics, which makes our job more difficult.  Not only that, but misleading information proves more harm than good; especially when it comes to health issues.

I want to state that the generally assumed-to-be-true statement, “Only senior citizens have incontinence” is utterly and completely false. There are over 25 million adults in the U.S. alone who currently have urinary incontinence.  Of those, about 12 million are in a severe state. The average age of a patient experiencing incontinence ranges from mid-thirties to mid-forties, and while the chances of having UI do go up as you age, you may show the symptoms as early as your twenties!  So for starters, never think that you are too young to have incontinence!

Another common myth, or to put it more precisely, “assumption” is that it is okay to leak urine – especially if you are doing it in small quantities. Once again, this assumption is incorrect.  Studies conducted by many health institutions have found that women often downplay their medical condition, associating incontinence with their menstrual cycle, ending up using hygiene products to get rid of their condition, which often aggravates it.

Men, whom many believe escape this medical condition, are not so fortunate!  Above 20% (source - NAFC) of people with UI are men – however, men are also less likely to talk about their problems with family and friends, which may explain the low number of reported cases.  Nevertheless, never assume that you cannot have UI, whichever gender group you may belong to!

Symptoms of Incontinence

Spending more time in the bathroom does not signal UI, which may be due to a lot of other reasons that you may not have thought about.  An overt urge to pass urine immediately does not necessarily indicate incontinence as well, however, it is a symptom and as such, should be dealt with accordingly. This does not mean that you should take symptoms lightly - as stated above, all symptoms should be dealt with immediately and reported to your doctor as soon as possible.  The sooner you seek help, the quicker you will be able to resolve your problem.

Since we are on symptoms, I would like to clarify another procedure which is ably followed by many if they encounter a symptom of UI – to stop drinking water. Contrary to popular belief, and what may seem common sense is to cut back on drinking water.  This will not resolve your UI problems or provide a temporary relief.  In fact, the more water you drink, the better it will be for your bladder control – so please do not stop drinking water in the hopes of preventing leakage!

In case you were wondering, there are a lot of products available on the market to help you tackle UI if you have it. Long gone are the days when adults had to resort to some sort of an adult diaper to deal with their incontinence problems. Today, there are over 100 products available online for you to browse through and purchase if you want to deal with your incontinence problem. These products vary a great deal in the benefits they offer and as such are unique in their own way .

Types of Urinary Incontinence (UI)

There are about 6 types of UI’s, each different in its own way. The distinguishing factor between these types is the way in which leakage of urine occurs. The 6 types of incontinence are:

Stress incontinence: This is when urine leakage happens due to coughing, sneezing, jumping, exercising, laughing and other similar acts that put pressure on your bladder.  Stress incontinence is the most common type of UI in women, and is usually caused by physical damage from child birth, menopause or pregnancy.

Urge incontinence: Sometimes called an overactive bladder, urge incontinence happens after a strong yet sudden urge to urinate – often happening when you least expect it, such as during sleep, right after drinking water or in some cases when you touch or hear running water!

Functional incontinence: People with functional incontinence have diseases or ailments that prevent them from reaching a toilet on time – such as patients in  wheelchairs or patients with  dementia.

Overflow incontinence: This happens when your bladder fails to empty completely, and as such leads to leakage.

Mixed incontinence: This, as the name suggests, is a condition in which a person has two types of UI at the same time, such as stress and urge incontinence.

Transient incontinence: In this condition, urine leakage happens for a short time, usually due to an illness and the incontinence passes away after the illness has been cured. A popular example would be pregnancy and bladder infection.

Now that you know about the types of UI’s, you can determine which type of incontinence you may have. This should also help your doctor make the diagnosis.  

There are cures… (Yes this is a thing many don’t know about!)

Many people mistakenly assume that incontinence is one of those problems you just have to deal with – without even trying to educate themselves about this problem. This type of thinking adversely affects quality of life for many people—those who otherwise have no major medical conditions. So please, do not assume that incontinence cannot be treated.

There are a number of ways in which incontinence is generally treated, and all of them have proven to be very effective!

Some general treatment methods involve the use of behavioral methods, use of medicines for bladder control, use of devices, nerve stimulation, biofeedback, surgery and catheterization.

Behavioral treatments include Kegel exercises, bladder retraining, weight loss and dietary changes.  These are all practical ways in which you can hope to rid yourself of or at least maintain some measure of control over your incontinence.  Meanwhile, medicines offer a more sure-fire way of getting an effective treatment, and surgeries and previously noted treatments types are just a continuation of advanced treatment procedures (which of course, work!).  Suburethral slings, Botulinum toxin (Botox) in the bladder and Interstim bladder pacemaker are a few examples of the many effective surgical options available.

Conclusion

To conclude this blog post, I would like to put forward some simple tips and thoughts.

Learn the truths behind the myths about incontinence.  Never assume that you are the only one with this medical problem – you are not.  Do not shy away from talking about this sensitive medical condition or you may spend your life living uncomfortably just because you couldn’t talk to your doctor about it.  Most importantly: do not assume that your condition cannot be treated!

- Dr. Lamia Gabal-Shehab, M.D.