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Urinary Incontinence a Clearer Picture: Fact & Fiction

Posted by Hugh Nurse on

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary discharge of urine. The ability to control urination requires: a normal anatomy, a normally functioning nervous system and the ability to determine and respond to the warning signs of impending urination. Urinary incontinence occurs when one is unable to control the flow, causing leakage or in severe cases an inability to retain urine. This can be precipitated by everyday actions: coughing, standing up, laughing, running, sneezing etc. Due to the nature of this affliction it is not a topic which is openly discussed, thus many falsehoods abound. Here’s an attempt to separate some of the facts from fiction.

Fiction: Incontinence is a disease.
Fact: Incontinence is merely a symptom of a pre-existing condition and can occur due to a number of extenuating circumstances: prostate surgery, menopause or child birth, a nervous system disorder, side effects of some medication, a birth defect, and loss of estrogen in women and enlargement of the prostate in men.

Fiction: Incontinence is a rare ailment.
Fact: The nature of the ailment and the reluctance of sufferers to openly discuss it lead to most people suffering in silence and by extension to the misconception that it’s an uncommon problem. The ‘National Association for Continence’ estimates that 200 million people worldwide (25 million American adults) have experienced some degree of incontinence.

Fiction: I’m in perfect health and therefore I’m not at risk
Fact: In and of itself there are no particular risk factors involved for either of the sexes. As previously indicated one can become incontinent by unforeseen circumstances, making us all likely candidates.

Fiction: Only “old people” get incontinence.
Fact: Although it may be perceived as an affliction of senior citizens it can affect people of all ages and sexes. The risk does increase with age due to weakening of the pelvic muscles and enlargement of the prostate gland. However it cannot be considered an age related ailment, surveys have found that 1 in 4 women over may experience episodes of involuntary leakage and both sexes age 30 - 70 have experienced incontinence occasional or chronic symptoms at some point as adults. Incontinence affects the following groups of people:
• 10% of six-year-olds
• One in four women middle-aged or older
• 15% of all men aged 60 years and over
• Many individuals with neurological disorders and spinal cord

Fiction: There are no solutions if you’re incontinent. Just live with it,
Fact: There are many types of incontinence (e.g. stress, urge, mixed) and they can all be treated, cured or managed successfully. Regardless of age or gender there are many available treatment options. Your doctor will determine which is right for you based on the nature, cause and severity of your ailment.

Fiction: The only available options are medication and/or surgery
Fact: It is widely accepted that Kegel exercises can play a huge role in treating and in some cases even reversing the effects of incontinence. Kegel exercises consist of contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles thereby strengthening them and allow one greater control of the pelvic floor muscles which controls the bladder. There are exercises for both men and women. Magnesium, vitamin D, a healthy body weight, and abstaining from smoking, alcohol and caffeine are also known to play a role in the improvement of this affliction.

Fiction: Incontinence can be fatal.
Fact: Incontinence is neither fatal nor life threatening. However its impact is such that one’s quality of life can be greatly affected. Due to the fear of “accidents” persons with this affliction tend to place severe restrictions on their social activities, leading to self imposed isolation and depression.
Incontinence should neither be ignored nor kept to oneself. Though not fatal it can lead to negative lifestyle changes which can be devastating. It is an indication of an impending or pre-existing condition which necessitates a visit to your medical practitioner without delay. Like any major ailment an early diagnosis can make a world of difference.

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