Urinary Incontinence

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What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine that represents a hygienic or social problem to the individual.

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

There usually isn’t any one single cause. Most of the time there are several things that cause someone to become incontinent. Diet, muscle weakness, nerve and blood vessel damage from diabetes or other causes, hormonal problems, surgical procedures, and even certain behaviors can all play a role in causing incontinence.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

There are actually five types of urinary incontinence: Stress Incontinence, Urge Incontinence, Mixed Incontinence, Overflow Incontinence, and Functional Incontinence.

  • Stress: When you unintentionally urinate due to something that causes increased intra-abdominal pressure, such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, or lifting weights.
  • Urge: When you unintentionally urinate immediately after feeling the urgent need to urinate but before you have time to make it to the bathroom.
  • Mixed: When you have both stress and urge incontinence. (Yep, you can have both.)
  • Overflow: When you unintentionally urinate as a result of not feeling the need or not being able to urinate. Urine usually trickles out in this case from a full bladder that you don’t actually know is full.
  • Functional: When you unintentionally urinate from some other cause outside of the bladder, such as an infection or medication or not being able to get to the toilet in time or at all.

What Can You Do About It?

The most important thing to do is to talk to your primary care physician about the problem. He or she may attempt to treat the problem or may simply refer you to a urinary specialist (a urologist in this case). Either way, many treatments are available, including diet changes, behavioral modifications, muscle strengthening exercises, medications, and surgical procedures. In fact, urinary incontinence is such a major social issue, affecting an estimated 10-13 million people and costing approximately $16.3 billion in the United States alone,1 that there is a lot of interest in research on and treatments for the problem.

The biggest problem for people with urinary incontinence is not seeking treatment. It can be embarrassing and can actually lead to depression. Many people also spend lots of money hiding the problem.

Remember, urinary incontinence is a problem that can be treated. If you have it, your life isn’t over. So, go see your doctor! You will wish you had done so a long time ago.

EMG Health Homepage: Men’s Health Introduction

External Resources: Mayo Clinic: Urinary Incontinence

1. Vasavada SP, Kim ED. Urinary Incontinence. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/452289-overview#a0156: Medscape Reference; 2012.