Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. In some cases, you may empty your bladder’s contents completely. In other cases, you may experience only minor leakage. The condition may be temporary or chronic, depending on its cause.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it’s more common among women age 50 and over. However, this condition can affect anyone.
As you age, the muscles supporting your bladder tend to weaken, which can lead to urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is divided into three general types. You can potentially experience more than one type at the same time.
Stress urinary incontinence is triggered by certain types of physical activity. For example, you might lose control of your bladder when you’re:
Such activities put stress on the sphincter muscle that holds urine in your bladder. The added stress can cause the muscle to release urine.
Urge urinary incontinence occurs when you lose control of your bladder after experiencing a sudden and strong urge to urinate. Once that urge hits, you may not be able to make it to the bathroom in.
Overflow urinary incontinence can occur if you don’t completely empty your bladder when you urinate. Later, some of the remaining urine may leak from your bladder. This type of incontinence is sometimes called “dribbling.”
Many people experience occasional, minor leaks of urine. Others may lose small to moderate amounts of urine more frequently. Types of urinary incontinence include :
- Stress incontinence. Urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.
- Urge incontinence. You have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition, such as infection, or a more-severe condition such as a neurologic disorder or diabetes.
- Overflow incontinence. You experience frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn’t empty completely.
- Functional incontinence. A physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the toilet in time. For example, if you have severe arthritis, you may not be able to unbutton your pants quickly enough.
- Mixed incontinence. You experience more than one type of urinary incontinence.
Factors that increase your risk of developing urinary incontinence include :
- Gender. Women are more likely to have stress incontinence. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and normal female anatomy account for this difference. However, men with prostate gland problems are at increased risk of urge and overflow incontinence.
- Age. As you get older, the muscles in your bladder and urethra lose some of their strength. Changes with age reduce how much your bladder can hold and increase the chances of involuntary urine release.
- Being overweight. Extra weight increases pressure on your bladder and surrounding muscles, which weakens them and allows urine to leak out when you cough or sneeze.
- Smoking. Tobacco use may increase your risk of urinary incontinence.
- Family history. If a close family member has urinary incontinence, especially urge incontinence, your risk of developing the condition is higher.
- Other diseases. Neurological disease or diabetes may increase your risk of incontinence.
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