Incontinence is essentially your body’s inability to control the functions of urination or defecation. In simple words, loss of normal bladder control is urinary incontinence and loss of bowel control is fecal incontinence.
Contrary to popular belief, incontinence can occur at any age due to various factors. It is not a disease and is treatable if you take steps to tackle it. In older women, frequent childbirths loosens the pelvic muscles on account of which the uterus presses into the bladder.
After the birth of my second child, my doctor advised me to do the Kegel exercises (read my post – top exercises for easy childbirth) because my pelvic muscles had loosened and if I neglected to do something about strengthening them, I could develop incontinence very soon. I started practicing them right away, throughout the day, anytime, anywhere.
There are six types of Urinary incontinence and you can understand their causes and take steps to tackle them early.
Stress incontinence – is very common and caused due to loosened pelvic floor muscles. In older women, frequent childbirths loosen the pelvic floor muscles and they are unable to support your bladder. The bladder drops down and pushes against the vagina. So, whenever you cough, sneeze or laugh very hard, the pressure on the bladder increases, causing a little urine to leak. Sometimes, exercise or bending to lift objects can also leak little urine. Excess weight gain cause also cause stress incontinence
Urge incontinence – is caused when there is an involuntary contraction of your urinary bladder muscle, causing a little urine to leak from your bladder as you are unable to reach the bathroom in time. Emotional stress, bladder irritation and neurological ailments like a stroke or Parkinson’s disease are other causes.
Overflow incontinence – occurs when your bladder is filled beyond its capacity and urine leaks involuntarily because of weak bladder muscles. Cause of overflow incontinence may be on account of weak nerves due to diabetes or multiple sclerosis or blockage in the urinary tract.
Functional incontinence – is inability to hold urine on account of physical disability, wherein you are unable to reach the bathroom in time. Other causes are inability to communicate or think for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, on account of failure to recognize the need to go to the bathroom. Depression may be another cause, wherein the person has no desire or inclination to use the bathroom.
Reflex incontinence – urinating involuntarily without realizing your bladder is full is one cause of reflex incontinence.
Anatomical incontinence – is usually congenital (from birth) and occurs due to a structural problem of your urinary tract through which urine flow is hampered.
Risks of Incontinence – Incontinence affects many people worldwide and can create a deep emotional impact more than a physical one, because it may be embarrassing and distressing to the person involved. People mistakenly believe that incontinence occurs only in old age and fail to recognize or identify the symptoms and take corrective measures to treat it. Incontinence can take a toll on your sex life too if you fail to treat it. You must understand that incontinence is totally treatable. Go to your physician without fail and address your issues for proper diagnosis. Failure to treat incontinence in time can cause anxiety, depression, less sexual intimacy, lack of socializing, skin infection and unpleasant odor.
People with incontinence withdraw into a shell, shunning social visits for fear of being caught with an unpleasant odor due to urine leak caused by the inability to control urine. Delay in treatment can turn you into a recluse. Don’t despair as it is perfectly treatable and you can continue to lead your life with dignity. Be informed about what incontinence is all about and visit your doctor for treatment.
How to prevent incontinence
Incontinence can occur to both women as well as men. There are exercises and other remedial measures to prevent incontinence
Do the Kegel exercises regularly (read my post – top exercises for easy childbirth) Dr Kegel was an American gynecologist who invented this exercise to strengthen pelvic muscles hence the exercise is named after him.
Limit large intake of fluids at one time. Drink one glass or water or fluid at any given time as opposed to 2-3 glasses in one go. When you are exercising, take sips of water periodically instead of drinking a lot at one time.
Alcohol and coffee stimulates urination as well as weaken the bladder muscles. So, avoid or limit its usage.
Use the bathroom as soon as you feel the need to go. Try not to hold on for too long as it can weaken your bladder muscles.
As stress is one cause of incontinence, practice prayanam (controlled breathing) to get relief from stress.
Sometimes, infection in the urinary tract may also cause incontinence. A visit to the doctor is necessary if urine passing is painful.
People who smoke as a rule are more susceptible to incontinence than those who don’t smoke. Weight gain is also one cause of incontinence as it will help reduce pressure on your bladder muscles.
Enrich your diet with fiber rich foods to reduce constipation as constipation aggravates incontinence.