According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all seniors are plagued by incontinence.
Urinary incontinence, specifically, is characterized as the loss of bladder control and can range from an occasional leak of urine due to sneezing or coughing to a strong, sudden urge to urinate that makes it difficult to get to the toilet in time.
There are four types of incontinence, and knowing the signs and symptoms of each can help a person seek the medical attention and treatment needed.
Stress incontinence – When pressure is put on the bladder due to coughing, exercising, laughing, sneezing or lifting something heavy, and urine leaks as a result, stress incontinence is likely the cause. This form of incontinence is common among middle-aged women and usually starts around the time of menopause.
Urge incontinence – We all get a sensation that alerts us that we have to urinate. For those who are suffering from urge incontinence, the sensation is sudden and so strong that they often cannot make it to the toilet in time. Urge incontinence can be caused by something as minor as an infection. However, there are other, more complicated causes such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Overflow incontinence – This is characterized as the involuntary release of urine when the bladder becomes overly full, which can be credited to a weak bladder muscle. More often than not, a person with overflow incontinence doesn’t experience the urge to urinate, which can lead to recurring or continual dribbling of urine.
Functional incontinence –Though these people have normal bladder control, their inability (due to a mental or physical impairment) to get to the restroom in time causes them to have an accident.
The only way to know for sure if you’re suffering from incontinence is to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or a urologist, where you’ll undergo a physical exam and your medical history will be reviewed. From there, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and if you’re on any medications. This information will be evaluated along with the results of a battery of tests that might include a blood or urine sample and testing to see how well you are able to empty your bladder.
While it might be embarrassing to talk about your bathroom habits, if you feel that you may be suffering from urinary incontinence, a doctor will help determine if there’s a bigger problem at hand, help you find ways to regain your independence, and decrease the number of falls that can take place when older adults rush to the bathroom.