Guide to Incontinence

Incontinence is a general term used to describe any involuntary urine loss from your bladder (urinary incontinence) or fecal leakage from the rectum (bowel or fecal incontinence). It can be mild or severe, meaning it ranges from minor leaks to complete bladder or bowel control loss.

Urinary Incontinence

This is a common condition, especially, among pregnant women, and women who have reached menopause. It is also common among persons with health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and asthma. The inability to control bladder may occur when laughing, exercising, or coughing. A person with urinary incontinence may also experience urination urge. Common types of urinary incontinence include:

  • Functional incontinence
  • Stress incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Chronic retention incontinence

Causes of Urinary Incontinence

The causes of urinary incontinence include:

  • Certain Drinks: Drinks such as sparkling water, carbonated drinks, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Excessive consumption of vitamin C:  It weakens the urinary bladder.
  • Medications:  Medications such as those used to treat high blood pressure. Muscles relaxants and sedatives may also cause urinary incontinence.
  • Urinary tract infection:  The infections may cause urinary incontinence by irritating your bladder, leading to increased urination urge.
  • Constipation:  The nearness of the bladder to the rectum means that they share many nerves. When hard stool in your rectum damages these nerves, you may lose your natural ability to control bladder.
  • Ageing:  As you grow older, your bladder muscles also undergo ageing, which weakens them. This reduces the bladder’s ability to store urine. Additionally, your involuntary bladder contractions are more frequent in old age.
  • Neurological Disorders:  They cause urinary incontinence by damaging the nerves that extent to the urinary bladder. Such disorders may include multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain tumor, Parkinson’s disease, and injury to the spinal cord.

Fecal Incontinence

Persons with poor bowel control may pass stools irrespective of time and place. Other signs of fecal incontinence may include involuntary wind passing and underwear staining. This condition is more common as you age. It is also common among the young people. In most cases, persons with fecal incontinence also have difficulty controlling their urinary bladder.

Causes of Fecal Incontinence

In most cases, fecal incontinence has multiple causes. The condition may be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Muscle Damage:  You are likely to suffer from fecal incontinence if you injure the rings of the end of your rectal muscle. The injured muscle lacks the ability to hold your stool properly, leading to bowel leakage. The damage may result from episiotomy or use of forceps during childbirth.
  • Constipation:  When constipation persists for a longer time, it may result in dehydration, leading to dry or hard stool in the rectum. Passing this hard stool strains your rectal muscles by overstretching them. As a result of the overstretched muscles, the watery stool from the intestines finds its way into the rectum, leading to bowel leakage. Chronic constipation may also cause bowel incontinence by damaging your nerves.
  • Diarrhea:  It is more difficult to retain loose stool in your rectum than hard stool.
  • Surgery:  Surgical procedures used to treat conditions such as enlarged rectal veins and other surgical operations in the rectum or anus may damage your nerves leading to bowel incontinence.
  • Loss of Rectal Storage Capacity:  Typically, your rectum undergoes stretching to accommodate your stool. Scarring or stiffness resulting from radiation therapies, surgeries, or inflammatory bowel conditions may hinder the normal stretching of the rectum. When the rectum fails to stretch to its maxim size to accommodate more stool, the excess stool is forced to leak out through the anus.

Treatment of Incontinence

Depending on the type and severity of incontinence, your physician may recommend any of the following treatments to address your condition:

  • Bladder training, which involves involves techniques to help you delay urination despite experiencing the urge to urinate. You may begin by hold back your urine for a few minutes and progressing gradually to hours. However, remember that holding urine longer than normal is harmful to your cells.
  • Diet management, which involves eating foods and drinks that help in regaining your bladder or bowel control while avoiding those that worsen the condition. You need to reduce or avoid alcohol, acidic drinks, and caffeine. Taking liquids in moderation may also help in addressing the problem.
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises to strengthen your rectal and bladder muscles.
  • Electrical stimulation, which involves temporary insertion of electrodes into your rectum or vagina to trigger stimulation of muscles.
  • Medications such as topical estrogen, Alpha blockers, injectable bulking agents, bulk laxatives, and drugs for diarrhea.

In severe cases, surgical operations to correct the cause of incontinence may be necessary. Applicable surgeries for incontinence include sphincter replacement, sphincteroplasty, bladder neck suspension, prolapse surgery, and sling procedures.

In a nutshell, although incontinence is an irritating condition, one good thing about it is that it is manageable and treatable. It is advisable to contact or visit a physician as soon as the symptoms of incontinence appear to ensure early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause. This helps to prevent any possible complications and worsening of the condition.

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