Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control, a common and annoying problem that affects millions of people around the world every day. The frequency and severity of involuntary urination varies from occasional small leaks when you cough, sneeze or just laugh to a complete loss of restraint as soon as someone feels wanting to go to the toilet and as a result, he or she can’t reach there in time.
Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact number of people suffering from urinary incontinence in any country, and this is because many choose not revealing their symptoms to anyone, usually because they are ashamed or believe that nothing can be done, suffering in silence.
Fortunately, this is not the case at all, and today you will learn more about urinary incontinence, all the causes and methods of treatment. And believe me, incontinence pads will be the last resort you can easily avoid.
How many suffer from urinary incontinence in Greece
Let’s start working backwards and see what is the situation in the United States of America. In a published research of 2017 on the surgical treatment of female stress incontinence but also according to all the information in the hands of the American Urological Association:
- 25% – 33% of men and women in the United States experience urinary incontinence at some point in their lives.
- More specifically, urinary incontinence is more common in women than men as it is estimated that 30% of women – aged thirty to sixty – suffer from it, compared to 1.5% – 5% for men.
- About 33 million Americans have an overactive bladder that shows the same symptoms with or without actual incontinence.
Unfortunately, in our country we don’t do very well with statistics. I tried to find an official document or some large published research but to no avail. However, according to distinguished urologists and small university studies, the situation of urinary incontinence in Greece seems to be as follows:
The root of the problem
So, if you have incontinence then you are definitely not alone. Unfortunately, urinary incontinence is not just a medical problem. It affects the emotional, psychological and social life of the patient resulting in too many people being afraid to perform the simplest daily activities, as they don’t want to find themselves too far from a toilet.
In other words, urinary incontinence can prevent people from enjoying life itself because of feelings of shame, low self-esteem as well as reduced social and sexual activity.
Worst of all, however, more than half end up living with incontinence diapers, which in addition to the hygiene issues and medical problems they cause (urinary tract infections, vaginitis and skin irritation, etc.), lead to social isolation. After all, there are many cases where incontinence leads to depression.
And all this while 7 out of 10 cases of incontinence can be cured or treated in more effective ways.
What are the types of urinary incontinence
First of all we need to make it clear that urinary incontinence is not a disease but a symptom of a disease or many other conditions. Here are the top six types of urinary incontinence:
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)
Stress incontinence is caused as soon as pressure is applied to the bladder. The most common reasons for these usually small leaks are:
- Exercise and every effort to lift something heavy
Stress incontinence is the most common type of bladder control problem and occurs mainly in younger and middle-aged women. Many times, however, it makes its first appearance during the menopause. Essentially, it is caused by damage to the muscles used to control urination, such as the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter.
So, the most common causes of stress incontinence are:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Menopause, as the drop in estrogen can make bladder muscles weaker
- Hysterectomy and similar operations
In this case there is a sudden, strong desire to urinate followed by involuntary leakage of urine immediately or in a few seconds. Urge incontinence is also called overactive bladder syndrome as you lose control as soon as you feel the need to urinate.
Basically, your brain tells you that the bladder needs to empty even when it isn’t full. There are, of course, cases where the problem is caused by the bladder muscles where they contract and press the bladder before it fills causing this urgent need.
While the main symptom of urge incontinence is the sudden and irresistible need to urinate, another symptom is excessive frequent urination during day and night.
Overactive bladder syndrome can be caused by a mild infection but also by more serious conditions. To date, the following causes of urge incontinence have been confirmed:
- Cystitis, an inflammation of the bladder
- Neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, stroke and Parkinson’s disease
- Enlarged prostate, which can cause the bladder to drop and irritate the urethra
When it comes to overflow incontinence,
- the body produces more urine than the bladder can hold or
- is full and cannot be emptied because there is an obstacle or
- the bladder muscle cannot contract normally, causing leakage.
Simply put, the bladder fills up without being able to empty normally, and as soon as the pressure in the bladder exceeds the sphincter pressure, frequent or even continuous urination occurs.
Overflow incontinence is extremely rare in women. It usually occurs in men who have prostate problems such as hyperplasia or have had prostate surgery. However, diabetes and spinal cord injuries can also cause this type of incontinence.
Thus, the main causes of overflow incontinence are:
- Prostate hyperplasia
- Tumor pressing on the bladder
- Stones in the urinary tract
- Surgery to treat urinary incontinence but something went wrong
This time we are not dealing with a urinary system’s problem . Functional incontinence is caused by mental and physical disorders. That is, a physical or mental dysfunction prevents the person from reaching the toilet in time.
Typical causes of functional incontinence are:
- Arthritis but also people with similar dexterity problems. Even if you don’t have major mobility problems, you may be too slow in removing clothes and underwear.
- The same is true for people with mental disorders with typical examples of Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia.
- Also depression, anxiety or anger can lead some people to become reluctant to use the bathroom
Thus, functional incontinence usually occurs in the elderly who, while having normal bladder control, another problem prevents them from reaching the toilet.
Total incontinence is the continuous and total loss of urinary control and is the most serious type of incontinence. It causes constant leakage or even periodic uncontrolled emptying of the bladder’s contents. In fact, in the case of total incontinence, your bladder cannot store urine at all.
The main cause of total incontinence is the neurogenic bladder which causes complete loss of bladder control due to problems in the brain, spinal cord and the nervous system in general.
Usual suspects are:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Brain or spinal cord infections.
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Spinal cord injury
- Pelvic surgery
Total incontinence may also be due to:
- Some anatomical defect that exists from birth
- A fistula
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Obviously mixed urinary incontinence is the simultaneous combination of two or more of the types of incontinence we have already seen.
But it is usually a combination of stress and urge incontinence. Once again, we encounter mixed incontinence mainly in women.
But is it temporary urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is not only the result of underlying medical conditions and physical or psychological problems but can often be caused by simple daily habits. In this case it is not a permanent problem but temporary urinary incontinence that can be treated very easily when we identify the source of evil.
Some drinks, foods and medicines act as diuretics, stimulating the bladder or increasing the volume of urine produced by the body, which can lead to temporary incontinence.
- Fizzy drinks
- Sparkling Water
- Artificial sweeteners
- Hot peppers
- Foods high in spices, sugar or acid (such as citrus fruits)
- Medications for the heart and blood pressure
- Sedatives, muscle relaxants or painkillers
- Large doses of vitamin C.
If you suffer from temporary urinary incontinence then maybe one of the above or a combination of them is causing the problem.
Of course, temporary urinary incontinence can also be caused by an easily treatable medical condition, such as:
Most irritate the bladder, causing a strong urge to urinate and sometimes incontinence.
Because the rectum is very close to the bladder, many nerves are shared. Constipation causes these nerves to become hyperactive resulting in frequent urination but also incontinence
Solutions for incontinence
As we have seen, the causes of urinary incontinence are different for men and women and it is not just a normal part of aging but the result of many factors that often have no direct or any relation to the urinary system.
Although it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence is not an inevitable consequence of aging. In general, there are many myths about incontinence and their huge spread is due to the lack of information and the refusal to visit a urologist who is the most competent to diagnose the real causes and to suggest the most appropriate treatments or remedies.
Indeed, if urinary incontinence affects your daily routine, don’t hesitate to visit your doctor. There are so many options.
You can easily notice that incontinence pads are not among the suggested solutions because you simply don’t need them. Only if all this fails or you are not satisfied with the result should you resort to the unhealthy and uncomfortable choice of diaper.
Perhaps the most important reason you probably ignore your better choices is the incontinence diaper manufacturers and the huge sums they spend on advertising and placing such products in a prominent position in all supermarkets.