Urinary Incontinence

Woman worried about urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence (UI), also known as involuntary urination or simply just incontinence, is the inability to control the flow of urine or may also be though of as any involuntary leakage of urine.

UI is a chronic health condition that can very embarrassing for those affected.  Involuntary urination creates adverse effects on the quality of life of men and women.

It is estimated that urinary incontinence affects 200 million people worldwide.

As we age, the prevalence of UI increases.

Women tend to be much more affected by involuntary urination compared to men.  Although it can happen at younger ages in women, the prevalence of incontinence tends to increase at menopause and continues to climb with increasing age.

It is thought that incontinence affects 3 to 11% of men.  Compared that to the 20 to 50% of women affected by urinary incontinence.  That’s a big difference.

Within that 20 to 50% range, the 20% figure is the prevalence seen more in young women whereas the 50% prevalence rate is more likely in mature, older women.

The inability to control one’s urine is an agonizing and stressful condition.  UI is an under-reported health issue due to the stigma and embarrassment involved.

Incontinence occurs due to bladder dysfunction, urinary sphincter dysfunction or due to a mixture of both.

UI is classified as either stress incontinence, urge (or urgency) incontinence or mixed (stress and urge) incontinence.

Stress incontinence is when urine is leaked during coughing, sneezing, laughing or strenuous exertion.

Urge incontinence is when there is the sudden urge to void the bladder that is difficult or impossible to stop.  This is sometimes also called overactive bladder syndrome or simply overactive bladder.  Medications have been developed to treat overactive bladder.

For men, UI is usually due to prostate enlargement or issues caused by surgery for prostate cancer.

For women, incontinence tends to be due to malfunctioning of the bladder and/or pelvic floor muscles.  Usually these issues start for women during pregnancy/childbirth or during menopause.

Treatment options for urinary incontinence include:

  • lifestyle changes
  • pelvic floor muscle training
  • medications
  • surgical interventions

To learn more about other embarrassing health issues please visit our Conditions page.