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Articles » Urinary Incontinence: NWHIC

Urinary Incontinence: NWHIC

Article title: Urinary Incontinence: NWHIC

Conditions: Urinary Incontinence, diabetes, urge incontinence, aging

Source: NWHIC


What is urinary incontinence?
What is the connection between diabetes and urinary incontinence?
Arenít only older people affected with urinary incontinence?
Is urinary incontinence curable or treatable?
Where can I get help for this embarrassing problem of urinary incontinence?

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control or the leakage of urine. It can happen to anyone, but is very common in older people. At least 1 out of 10 people age 65 or older suffers from incontinence. It is a condition that ranges from mild leakage to uncontrollable and embarrassing wetting. Urinary incontinence is a major health problem because it can lead to disability and dependency. You may feel ashamed about bladder control problems. Remember that it's a medical problem and it's not your fault. Millions of women have the same problem. Don't believe people who tell you that urine leakage is normal. It isn't. Most of the time it can be improved.

What is the connection between diabetes and urinary incontinence?

Often, diabetics endure a particular type of incontinence known as urge incontinence. This happens when you canít hold your urine long enough to reach a toilet. Some diabetics have neurological problems; thus the nerve supply to the bladder and urethra can be affected and the sphincter controlling urine flow becomes dysfunctional.

Arenít only older people affected with urinary incontinence?

Aging itself does not cause incontinence. It may be caused by changes in your body due to disease. For example, incontinence may be the first and only symptom of a urinary tract infection. Curing the infection may relieve or cure the problem. Some drugs may cause incontinence or make it worse. Women of all ages have bladder control problems. Some younger women find they can't hold their urine after having a baby. Others have problems when they stop having periods. Many women over the age of 75 also have bladder control problems.

Is urinary incontinence curable or treatable?

Your treatment will depend on the type of bladder control problem you have. Some treatments are simple. Others are more complicated. The simplest treatments for women include pelvic muscle exercises. You can learn simple exercises that can strengthen the muscles near the urethra. These are called pelvic muscle exercises or Kegel exercises and take only a few minutes a day. Also, bladder training, weight loss and reduction of foods with caffeine and alcohol in your diet may all help some types of incontinence. Another level of treatment for muscle therapy may include electrical stimulation to make the muscles stronger and tighter, or biofeedback which takes the guesswork out of pelvic muscle exercise. A therapist places a patch over the muscles. A wire connects the patch to a TV screen. You watch the screen to see if you are exercising the right muscles. The therapist will help you. Soon you learn to control these muscles without the patch or screen. Then, there are medical treatments. Certain drugs can tighten or strengthen urethral and pelvic floor muscles. Other medicines can calm overactive bladder muscles. There is the option of collagen injections as well: Collagen (CALL-uh-jen) is a natural substance like fat. It can be injected into the tissue around your urethra to add bulk and keep your sphincter muscles tightly closed. One drawback to this treatment is that collagen breaks down after several months, so you may need to have injections repeated. Devices can also be inserted into the urethra or pads placed over the urethra to block urine flow.

Some bladder control problems can be solved by surgery, depending on what is causing the problem. In most cases, the surgeon changes the position of the bladder and urethra. After the operation, the bladder control muscles work better.

Where can I get help for this embarrassing problem of urinary incontinence?

First, although you may feel ashamed about bladder control problems, remember that itís a medical problem and itís not your fault. Nearly everyone with a bladder control problem can be helped, so call your clinic and find out how. You may need to get a referral from your primary care physician to see a doctor who specializes in womenís bladder and urine problems or perhaps even a visiting home nurse who can help you learn about bladder control. There are also support groups available; see the resources below.

For More Information...

Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHRQ) 

American Foundation for Urologic Disease
The Bladder Health Council
300 West Pratt Street
Suite 401
Baltimore, MD 21201

American UroGynecologic Society
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-4267
(312) 644-6610

National Association For Continence (800) BLADDER

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse

The Simon Foundation for Continence (800) 23-SIMON

Society for Urologic Nurses and Associates
P.O. Box 56
East Holly Avenue
Pitman, NJ 08071-0056
(609) 256-2335

This information was abstracted from the National Institute on Agingís AGEPAGE--Urinary Incontinence Resources.

All material contained in the FAQs is free of copyright restrictions, and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services; citation of the source is appreciated.

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Publication date: 1998



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