It can be a minor leak after a sneeze. A constant dribbling. Or a sudden, hard-to-control urge to urinate. Urinary incontinence is the inability to hold urine in the bladder, and affects over 33 million Americans to some degree. It can happen to anyone, but becomes more common with age. Women are twice as likely than men to experience it.
But incontinence is not just a physical issue. It’s hard to enjoy life if you’re constantly worrying how far away the bathroom is. The stress can take its toll on emotional, psychological and social well being. It can interfere with sleep. And it can affect the relationship with your partner.
Many older people don’t seek treatment because they assume urinary incontinence is just part of getting older. It’s not. As the Mayo Clinic points out, urinary incontinence is not a disease; it’s a symptom with an underlying cause. And it can be treated or managed.
Some causes are temporary and easily addressed, such as: foods, beverages and medicines that increase urine production; constipation, which puts pressure on the bladder; or urinary tract infections.
Most bladder control problems are chronic and occur when muscles are too weak or too active. If the muscles that keep your bladder closed are weak, you may have accidents when you sneeze, laugh or lift a heavy object. This is called “stress incontinence.”
If bladder muscles become too active, you may feel a strong urge to go to the bathroom, even when you have little urine in your bladder. This is called “urge incontinence” or “overactive bladder.” There are other causes of incontinence, such as prostate problems, urinary tract obstructions, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s, and nerve damage.
Talk to your doctor. Treatment depends on the type of problem you have. Ask if therapy can help.
Working with your physician, our physical and occupational therapists at Lutheran Life Villages can help you control incontinence and start living a fuller and stress-free life. Your customized therapy plan may include: