What is Incontinence?

In general terms incontinence occurs when the bladder or the bowel, or both, cannot be controlled. While many may think of incontinence as an ailment, it should actually be considered more of a symptom. Even though it occurs frequently in the elderly population, it is not a normal part of ageing; rather a symptom of some other underlying problem best defines, “what is incontinence?” There are many different health problems that can manifest themselves through incontinence. A simple infection, such as a bladder infection or a urinary tract infection, can bring on a bout of incontinence. Injuries, especially to the pelvic region, can cause the problem as well. Even an injury to the spinal cord or brain can trigger the onset of incontinence. There are many different conditions and diseases that may have incontinence as a symptom, like poliomyelitis, multiple sclerosis, seizures, weakened muscles, birth defects and side effects from surgery. One of the most common causes of incontinence for women is bearing children,and for men it is an enlarged prostate.

There are millions of cases of incontinence reported in Britain alone, and the large majority of them are women. As a matter of fact, four out of five cases of incontinence occur in women. While incontinence in men is more prevalent in older males, incontinence in women appears at all ages, because of the added risks brought on by pregnancy and childbirth. About 20% of adult women regularly deal with some level of incontinence, even if it is just light, adult incontinence.

One of the most common reasons that an elderly person is committed to a care facility is because they have become incontinent. While incontinence is certainly a manageable condition, when a person is sick, incapacitated or very frail, they may require additional care to manage continence. For example, incontinence is counted as being responsible for an increase in bone fractures among the elderly, because they are rushing to get to the toilet before having an accident, which results in a fall.

In men incontinence is loosely connected to ageing, because one of the main contributing factors to male incontinence is an enlarged prostate gland. Whether the enlarged prostate itself is causing the problem or surgery to reduce the size of the gland yields the undesirable side effect of incontinence, it is all connected the the prostate’s tendency to become enlarged in men over the age of forty.

Incontinence brings with it problems above and beyond the physical management of the condition. Even though incontinence is relatively widespread, and it occurs in millions of adults, there is a shame and stigma still connected with it. Many people dealing with incontinence suffer emotionally as much or more than they do physically. Oftentimes, incontinence, whether urinary or faecal incontinence, causes people to opt out of many normal activities that they would normally engage in. The fear of having an embarrassing episode of incontinence in public is enough to challenge even the most secure person’s confidence.

When trying to understand what is incontinence, it is important to find the underlying condition that is causing it; determine how to treat the cause; discover how to manage the symptoms, and make sure to stay active and engaged in normal lifestyle activities. For these reasons it is important to discuss a pattern of incontinence with a physician to find a course of treatment to cure, or at least manage, everything involved with the challenge of incontinence.

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