- Incontinence of the bladder, resulting in urine loss, is called "urinary incontinence" or "UI" for short.
- Incontinence of the bowel, resulting in loss of gas or fecal matter, is called "fecal incontinence" or "bowel incontinence" or "accidental bowel leakage (ABL)".
Who has incontinence?
You are not alone! According to recent reports by the US National Institutes of Health, approximately thirty-three million adult women and men who are living with or have experienced urinary incontinence in the US. There are countless more living with fecal incontinence. And then there are those who are living with both bladder and bowel incontinence. There are almost 500 million living with incontinence globally. And none of these statistics represent how many children are affected by incontinence.
One of the common myths about incontinence is that it only affects older people or women. Actually, men, women and children of all ages and races can experience incontinence. However, it is more common in older adults and women, especially women who have had children.
What causes incontinence?
Incontinence is not a disease in and of itself. Rather, it is a symptom of something else that is going wrong, or not working quite right, in the body. That is why it is always important to see a doctor about any problems with incontinence or leakage of urine or fecal matter. Many things can contribute to having incontinence, and sometimes it is a combination of factors. Determining what is causing your incontinence will require the assistance of a healthcare professional. Some of the things that can contribute to having incontinence (and this list is not exhaustive) are: constipation, medications, diabetes, obesity and prostate problem.
What types of incontinence are there?
There are different types of incontinence. The are two main types of urinary incontinence:
- Stress urinary incontinence (SUI), which occurs when you laugh, sneeze, cough, or otherwise exert pressure on your pelvic floor
- Urge incontinence, which occurs when you have a sudden and intense urge to urinate – even if you emptied your bladder a short while ago.
There is also mixed (both stress and urge), overflow, and functional incontinence.
Bowel incontinence is also called fecal incontinence and accidental bowel leakage. Some people have both bladder and bowel incontinence.
What treatment and management options are available?
There are many different treatment options available for both urinary and bowel incontinence, including Kegel exercises, electrical stimulation, bulking agents, dietary changes, medication, injections, and several types of surgeries. In some cases, incontinence can’t be treated/cured, and it must be managed using tools such as absorbent products and urine collection devices. It is important to speak with a nurse or doctor before attempting any treatment, or if you use products to manage incontinence.