Incontinence is the inability to control one’s bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowels (fecal incontinence). What you might be surprised to learn, is that more than 25 million American adults suffer from it. So, if you feel like you’ve been going frequently or struggling to get to a restroom in time, know that you’re not alone.
Because incontinence can be so frustrating, it’s tempting to think of it as a disease. In reality, it’s generally a symptom of some other underlying problem. So, before you start Googling cures or other quick fixes, see talk to your doctor to talk about what the cause could be.
Some physical activities put pressure on the bladder, causing incontinence. This can include everyday activities like lifting weight or running but also events like childbirth. This may be especially true if you have weak pelvic floor muscles. The good news: pelvic floor muscles can get stronger with exercise.
If you often get the sudden urge to run to the bathroom, this is what’s often called urge incontinence. You may even have an overactive bladder which causes bladder muscles to spasm. This is the second most common type after stress incontinence. You may also have a combination of stress and urge incontinence; this is called “mixed incontinence”.
Sometimes your bladder simply gets too full to the point where you just can’t hold it anymore. Like ever parent tells their distracted child, if you have the option, it’s best to go when your body tells you to. Or, you don’t completely empty your bladder when voiding leaving you to think you have more room to hold more urine than you actually do.
If you have limited mobility, then functional incontinence could be an issue. Your bladder may be working just fine, but you’re still going to you still have trouble getting to the bathroom in time. This may happen to people who are wheelchair-bound or suffer from diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, ALS, blindness and more.
Fecal incontinence (or bowel incontinence) is the lack of control over bowel movements. This can range from mild or occasional leakage to more serious event leading to the unexpected release of feces. Stools may be loose and watery or more formed which can impact which products may be right for you.
As frustrating and personal as these symptoms may be, it is important to talk to your doctor about potential remedies. Remember, incontinence is a symptom, not a disease, and you’ll do more to protect your health by learning what underlying problem may be causing it.
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