Addressing the Urgent (Liquid) Matter of Urinary Incontinence

We all know the torture of wanting, but not being able, to relieve ourselves (especially when we're stuck in traffic or in a long queue outside the bathroom so close yet so far!) Imagine what it would feel like if you were constantly in this state! If you're an older individual, and a woman, you might be able to empathise.

Urinary incontinence, or the inability to control one's bladder, is most likely to affect women, particularly older women, but it does develop in older men as well.

Among older women, there are different types of urinary incontinence that are accompanied by specific symptoms. In its milder form urinary incontinence, or loss of bladder control, is characterised by urine leaks that occur when a person coughs or sneezes hard. At its most extreme, it is marked by an uncontrollable urge to urinate that often leads to people wetting themselves on the spot.

There are different types of incontinence, each distinguished by very specific symptoms.

  • Stress related: this is when stress is placed on the bladder muscles, which occurs when people bear down on them while laughing or lifting heavy objects.
  • Urge specific: unable to control the urge to urinate when it strikes you, and wetting yourself. Diabetics have this condition, as do people with urinary infections.
  • Overflow: also referred to as 'dribbling', people with this type of incontinence have to use to the bathroom frequently, as their bladders don't empty completely.
  • Multiple: a combination of some or all of the above.

Not a condition in and of itself, urinary incontinence in the elderly is actually a sign of underlying issues from the relatively uncomplicated- too much caffeine, constipation, urinary tract infections to the serious, including certain neurological disorders.

Common Causes of Urinary Incontinence

  • Weak bladder muscles, which lose elasticity over time
  • In women, the deterioration of tissues lining the bladder and urethra. This is due to a reduced oestrogen production, following menopause
  • Over-active bladder muscles
  • Nerve damage due to neurological disorders like Parkinson's or Multiple Sclerosis
  • In men, an enlarged prostate due to prostate cancer causes stress and urge incontinence

If you happen to have UI, don't burst into tears (your bladder has been doing enough bursting of the watery kind as it is!) Take heart, as there are a number of things you can do to manage and even eliminate the symptoms. Where incontinence is a result of old age, exercises can come in handy.