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Causes of Incontinence

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As bodies age, a mixture of ailments and stress on the system can cause different forms of adult incontinence. This unwelcome symptom can have many different causes. Understanding these causes and recognizing the warning signs are the first steps in determining the best way to treat and manage your incontinence. The key to managing this symptom is to educate yourself, and speak with your doctor if you feel the slightest possibility that you are experiencing incontinence.

  • Stress incontinence can be caused by everyday activities, including laughing, coughing, exercising or lifting weights. For both men and women, obesity and added weight over time can cause the muscles of the pelvis to relax and create stress incontinence in the body.
  • Stress incontinence in women is often a result of multiple births, or a breakdown in the urethra due to decreased estrogen levels as the female body ages.
  • Stress incontinence in men is often a result of an enlarged prostate or a traumatic event to the pelvis.
  • Reflex incontinence is caused by cerebrovascular accidents, spinal cord injuries and brain tumors.
  • Urge incontinence can be caused by spinal cord injuries, urinary tract infections, or an enlarged prostate or BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia). Urge incontinence may also be caused by disorders of the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer's disease, CVA and Parkinson's disease.
  • Overflow incontinence is caused by weak bladder muscles or blockages of the urethra from tumors, urinary stones or infection. In some cases for men, it can be caused by prostate enlargement.
  • Functional incontinence is caused by factors outside the urinary tract, such as immobility or cognitive impairment. The individual would be continent if the external factor were eliminated.

If you think you may have incontinence, it's best to talk with a healthcare provider about what you've observed. Various management options are available, and it's best to get to the root cause to ensure a long, healthy life.

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Treating and Managing Incontinence

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As you age, there are several techniques for managing adult incontinence and enhancing your lifestyle so you can live life to the fullest. The following sections describe the most common approaches for incontinence management, including the use of absorbent bladder leakage products. To get the maximum benefit, speak with your healthcare provider about options that are the best fit for your lifestyle and unique symptoms.

Incontinence products

A number of different products may be used to help those living with incontinence to remain comfortable and dry. The selection of a product should correlate with the type of incontinence. The smallest, most minimal product should be used to support and encourage continence and promote dignity and confidence. Some product options are bladder control pads, small liners and undergarments, pant liners, and protective underwear and disposable briefs. Brief sizing is critical; the better the fit, the more comfortable the wearer and the better the absorption.

Behavioral therapy

Approaches for behavioral therapy include scheduling regular visits to the bathroom, practicing relaxation techniques, keeping a bladder and bowel diary, and doing Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises are performed by tightening the pelvic floor muscles in a series of repetitions. These should be performed 30–80 times daily over the course of eight weeks.

Surgery

If behavioral techniques and medications are not an option or are ineffective, there are also surgical options. The sling procedure is a surgical procedure commonly performed to treat stress incontinence. The sling provides support to the urethra and enables the bladder to collect and empty urine properly. Another procedure involves the use of bulking treatments, such as collagen, to thicken the area around the urethra and help control urine flow.

Medication

Medication can either cause or help incontinence, depending upon what you take and in what combination. Certain medications for unrelated health issues can sometimes irritate the bladder and trigger incontinence. You may want to discuss your mediations with your doctor if you are taking diuretics or sedatives. Other medications can be effective in treating some forms of urinary incontinence.

Prostate health

The prostate is a gland in males that surrounds the urethra. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate, can be a very common cause of stress incontinence. Some symptoms of BPH include increased frequency of urination, urgency, a weakened stream and incomplete bladder emptying. By age 60, 50% of men experience BPH and by age 85, 90% of men report symptoms of BPH. You should consult with your doctor about BPH. There are many surgical and pharmacological options to minimize or eliminate the symptoms.

Now that you're familiar with ways to take control of incontinence, you're ready to start a plan of action. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss the best options for your specialized needs. A confident, worry-free lifestyle is right around the corner!

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Incontinence Management for Men

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Though adult bladder leakage is often presented as a female issue, it is relatively common among men. Whether the cause be age, an enlarged prostate, or stress, it is important to remember that this inconvenience is not a disease, but rather a symptom that can be easily managed with proper treatment and care. There are several approaches to addressing various degrees of incontinence in men, and many of them begin with lifestyle changes.

Exercise

Pelvic floor muscle exercises, often referred to as Kegel exercises, have been known to improve and even prevent moderate urination urgency and stress incontinence. To begin, lie on the floor and squeeze or pull in the pelvic floor muscles. Keep them tight for several seconds, release, and repeat. Repetition of this exercise over time will help strengthen your pelvic muscles and improve your bladder control.

Diet

Another lifestyle change that can greatly reduce the severity of your incontinence is a change in diet. Two of the most common factors in the presence of bladder leakage are caffeinated sugary drinks and weight gain. Both can lead to an increased production of urine and added pressure on the bladder. Cutting sugar and soda out of your diet will greatly increase your ability to prevent issues associated with incontinence.

For some cases of incontinence, it may be necessary to seek the advice of a healthcare professional for surgical or medicinal treatment options. It's always wise to consult a doctor if you witness any changes in your urination habits, as it can sometimes be indicative of underlying health issues that may have gone undiscovered.

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Incontinence As Men Age

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Though incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging, its presence can definitely increase as a man gets older. The older a man gets, the more likely it is for problems associated with an enlarged prostate to worsen, increasing the chances of bladder leakage.

Though rare among younger men, bladder leakage can still be a symptom created by added stress on the bladder. Other contributing factors could include enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, surgery on the prostate, diabetes or Parkinson's disease. Catching these issues during the early stages, as well as cutting out unnecessary sugar from the diet at a young age, can greatly decrease your chances of bladder leakage in the future.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you feel any sudden urination urges or show signs of bladder leakage. The sooner incontinence is diagnosed, the easier it will be to control.

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Incontinence Management for Women

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There are several approaches to addressing various degrees of adult incontinence in women, and many of them begin with lifestyle changes.

Pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor muscle exercises, often referred to as Kegel exercises, have been known to improve and even prevent moderate urination urgency and stress incontinence. To begin, lie on the floor and squeeze or pull in the pelvic floor muscles. Keep them tight for several seconds, release and repeat. Repetition of this exercise over time will help strengthen your pelvic muscles and improve your bladder control. Also try to avoid movements and activity that may overwork these muscles.

Diet

Other lifestyle changes include a change in diet. If you're one to have caffeinated items during and after every meal, it's best to cut back since it can lead to increased production of urine. Weight gain can also create increased urges, as it can add pressure on certain muscles. Cutting sugar and soda out of your diet will greatly increase your ability to prevent issues associated with incontinence.

For some cases of incontinence, it may be necessary to seek the advice of a healthcare professional for surgical or medicinal treatment options. It's always wise to consult a doctor if you witness any changes in your urination habits, as it can sometimes be indicative of underlying health issues that may have gone undiscovered.

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Incontinence and Menopause

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Many people believe that loss of bladder control is simply a condition of old age. Contrary to this, many Americans – especially women – can become incontinent at any age. Women experience incontinence more commonly than men, often due to menopause, pregnancy and childbirth.

Hormones change as women age. During and after the process of menopause, women experience the urge to urinate more frequently. This is because the levels of the female hormone estrogen are dropping significantly.

One of the functions of estrogen is to keep a woman's muscles strong. Lack of estrogen may cause the pelvic muscles responsible for bladder control to weaken, resulting in frequent restroom visits and bladder leakage. Estrogen also contributes to the health of the urinary tract lining. These linings can deteriorate when estrogen is lacking, which affects the flow of urine.

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