Incontinence refers to the uncontrolled passing of urine, stools or both. There are several types of incontinence: stress incontinence, urge incontinence, overflow incontinence, mixed incontinence and functional or environmental incontinence.
Among these types, it is urinary stress incontinence that is most common among people said to be suffering from 'incontinence'. One who is suffering from stress incontinence may leak some urine when coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising or lifting heavy objects.
Women are prone to suffer from stress incontinence more than men because of childbirth and menopause. At childbirth, a prolonged vaginal labour may weaken the pelvic-floor muscles which control how the sphincter opens and shuts the urethra (a narrow passageway where urine passes out of the body). With menopause, a decline or lack of oestrogen also causes the pelvic-floor muscles to become weak.
Stress incontinence can be caused by a variety of reasons such as:
If you suffer from urinary incontinence, you should see a health care professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Correct diagnosis enables your health professional to determine the best treatment for your incontinence.
It is often necessary to submit blood and urine samples to laboratory testing. Other diagnostic tests which may be prescribed are more invasive and involve an examination of the bladder itself during a cystoscopic examination, post-void residual measurement and urodynamic test.
The right treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the underlying cause.
Other treatments can include biofeedback, electrical stimulation, catheterization and implants.
On your own, you can deal with incontinence by making some lifestyle changes. Sometimes your daily habits may aggravate your condition, so examine your lifestyle for additional factors that contribute to your incontinence. The following are some ways to minimize incontinence.
A more distressing though less prevalent form of incontinence is bowel incontinence, the loss of bowel control. Its severity can range from losing total control over bowel movements, to passing small amounts of faecal matter with wind. Bowel incontinence is most prevalent in women over the age of 65.
Causes of Bowel Incontinence
There are a great many causes of bowel incontinence, including:
Treatment of bowel incontinence
There are some very effective treatments for bowel incontinence, and finding the most appropriate begins with identifying the cause. In particular there are several ways of strengthening the pelvic and anal muscles to encourage normal bowel function.
Diet: With bowel incontinence, it is often the case that the rectal sphincter has become less able to handle large quantities of liquid stool, and a change in diet can alleviate this problem.
Medications: If the problem is a result of diarrhea, there are both over the counter medications and herbal remedies to help alleviate the condition. Long term use of prescribed medications is not recommended as they may be masking a more serious condition.
Surgery: A last resort for the most serious cases of bowel incontinence, surgery, where warranted can include rectal sphincter repair, artificial bowel sphincter, faecal diversion and gracilis muscle transplant.
People with impaired mobility, or who have a decreased ability to recognise the need to defecate, need special care, including 'timed elimination' programs.
Always seek the help of a health care professional if incontinence is affecting you, or someone for whom you care.