Incontinence Definition, Causes, Treatment - What is Incontinence?

Incontinence or the loss of bladder or bowels control is a common and often embarrassing problem.
Until about the age of two, people can’t achieve voluntary control of the bladder during the daytime, and at night may not occur until some years later.
In adults the severity of urinary incontinence ranges from occasionally leaking urine when the person coughs or sneezes, to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong, that persons can’t reach the toilet in time.

What Causes Incontinence of the Bladder?

Any neurological disorder that interferes with normal sensations from the bladder can prevent control of the sphincter muscle that normally closes it.
Such disorders include:
  • Spina bifida;
  • Damage to the spinal cord;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Nerve degeneration that occurs with conditions like diabetes mellitus, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease. Incontinence is also seen following certain attacks of epilepsy.
Incontinence may also result from partial obstruction caused by enlargement of the prostate gland (prostatomegaly) and from disorders of the muscle that controls the outflow of urine; such a muscle disorder may follow surgery or cancer.
Some women develop stress incontinence because of prolapse of the uterus, which presses on the bladder and changes its structure so that urine escapes when the woman coughs or laughs.
Incontinence may also result from an injury to the spinal cord that prevents impulses between the brain and the bladder.

What Causes Incontinence of the Bowels?

In young children, lack of bowel control may simply be resistance to toilet training.
But in older children it may occur because of stress or a psychological disorder.
Fecal incontinence is common in the senile, as is constipation.
Failure to control the bowels may also be associated with neurological disorders, such as a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or the polyneuritis associated with diabetes mellitus.
The condition may follow damage to the sphincter muscle that closes the anus following childbirth or an operation for anal fistula or fissure.
Another factor can be cancer of the rectum or simply severe diarrhea.

Treatment for incontinence

The treatment of any form of incontinence must be directed toward the cause.
Special bags may be used for urinary incontinence, but fecal incontinence is more difficult to control. Special waterproof undergarments with absorbent pads may be worn to prevent leakage of stool or urine.
A new treatment involves electrical stimulation of the muscles that close the exits from the bladder and the rectum.
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