What is incontinence?
So, let’s start with a definition of terms. What is incontinence exactly? Put simply, it is the loss of bladder control. This can range anywhere from occasional little leaks when you cough, laugh, or sneeze to an urge to urinate that comes on so strongly that you don’t make it to the bathroom on time.
Many women with urinary incontinence stop doing certain activities as a result of their bladder leaks. Maybe they are afraid of an embarrassing accident while out with friends, so the opt to stay home. Maybe they stop doing much enjoyed physical activities like aerobics, tennis, dancing, or gardening, due to incontinence. Or perhaps even a short run to the store – away from a bathroom – can become a source of anxiety. This need not be the case. With a little management, you can live a life filled with the activities you love despite experiencing incontinence.
There is a common misconception around incontinence that it’s an affliction of the elderly. In fact, 1 in 3 women aged 35 and older experiences incontinence. So, if you experience little leaks or gushes, you are not alone.
Symptoms of incontinence
The symptoms of incontinence that you experience depends on what type of incontinence you have. There are five main types of urinary incontinence:
Stress incontinence is caused by a weakened pelvic floor – the system of muscles, ligaments, and nerves that support your bladder. When your pelvic floor is weakened, it is no longer able to hold in little leaks of urine when stressed by things like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects. Read more about stress incontinence here.
Urge incontinence, also known as an overactive bladder or OAB, is caused by damage to the nerves in and around the bladder. As a result, the bladder no longer effectively communicates to the brain when it needs to be emptied. This leads to sudden, intense urges to urinate that often don’t leave you with enough time to get to the bathroom, resulting in an involuntary loss of urine. The urge to urinate may come on more frequently than it would with a healthy bladder, often leading you to wake up more than once in the middle of the night to urinate. Read more about urge incontinence here.
Overflow incontinence occurs when your bladder fails to fully empty. The pressure of an overly full bladder results in a constant, involuntary dribble or flow of urine. Read more about overflow incontinence here.
Functional incontinence is the result of a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from getting yourself to the bathroom in time to empty your bladder.
Mixed incontinence is any combination of two or more of the above types of incontinence.
Causes of Urinary Incontinence
- Pregnancy and childbirth – The hormonal changes and weight of carrying around a fetus can affect the pelvic floor. Vaginal childbirth can damage the pelvic floor and the surrounding nerves and tissues, leading to chronic stress or urge incontinence.
- Being overweight - Carrying extra pounds puts stress on the pelvic floor, leading to stress incontinence. This usual can be rectified by losing weight.
- Age – The hormonal changes associated with menopause can cause the lining of the urethra and bladder to deteriorate, as well as the bladder muscles to weaken. This leads to stress incontinence.
- Previous surgery – Having undergone a previous surgery in your lower abdominal cavity, such as a hysterectomy or C-section, may have damaged the nerves leading to the bladder, resulting in urge incontinence.
- Obstruction – Blockages anywhere along the urinary system, such as urinary stones or polyps along the bladder or urethra, can prevent the bladder from fully emptying, leading to overflow incontinence.
- Neurological disorders – Diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s affect the brain’s communication with the nerves in the body, which can lead to urge incontinence.
- Smoking – Chronic smokers cough can weaken the pelvic floor by exerting continually repeated pressure on the muscles of the pelvic floor that can eventually lead to their weakening.
- Urinary tract infection – Urinary tract infections irritate and inflame the tissues in the bladder and urinary tract, causing urge incontinence. This kind of incontinence is temporary and will go away when the infection clears up.
Remedies and treatments for incontinence
How you treat your incontinence depends largely on what type of incontinence you experience. Treatments can range from lifestyle adjustments in what and when you eat and drink to surgery. Read more about incontinence treatments here, here, and here.
No matter what type of incontinence you have, a universal remedy is the use of bladder leak products, such as incontinence liners, pads, or underpants. Which of these products you choose will depend on how much urine loss you experience.
ALWAYS DISCREET is a line of ultra thin and absorbent liners, pads, and underpants that allow you to discreetly go about your day without giving a second thought to your bladder leaks. ALWAYS DISCREET have an absorbent core that turns liquid into gel – eliminating wetness and neutralizing odors within seconds. This technology also keeps ALWAYS DISCREET products thin and flexible, making them comfortable to wear. This also means they’re not noticeable under your clothes – a big plus if you don’t feel like announcing to the world that you are wearing an incontinence product. Pick out the right ALWAYS DISCREET for you and get back to doing the things you love, worry-free of bladder leaks.