Tuesday, December 12, 2017

An Introduction to Urinary Incontinence - Myths and Facts
Urinary Bladder
Urinary Bladder, Picture Source - Bigcskyline

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence, a.k.a. poor bladder control, is a condition wherein urine leaks out of the body by accident. The European Association of Urology states that it affects 200 million people worldwide. Its severity ranges from sporadic leakages of a few drops of urine to chronic loss of bladder control with heavy regular leakage.

What are the potential causes that can lead to Urinary Incontinence?

A basic understanding of how the urinary bladder system works can help us infer the underlying causes of Urinary Incontinence. The urinary bladder is an elastic, muscular organ that holds the urine. It expands as it fills up and contracts as it releases the urine. When it's filled up to capacity, a signal is sent to the brain, indicating that the bladder is full. The brain, in turn, instructs the bladder muscles to contract and push the urine out. As the bladder contracts, a muscular ring at the base of the bladder called the inner sphincter relaxes and lets the urine pass into the urinary tract. Then, the external sphincter at the end of the urinary tract relaxes, expelling the urine from the body. This process is called micturition. Any damage to a part, or the entirety of this apparatus, whether by an injury, loss of muscular control, certain chronic diseases, drug usage, or nerve damage, can be the underlying cause of Urinary Incontinence.

Myths About Urinary Incontinence

  • Contrary to popular misconceptions, Urinary Incontinence is not a disease but a symptom of a bigger problem. 
  • Another common misconception about UI is that it’s inevitable with age. It isn’t. Only a tenth of the over 65 population suffers from Urinary Incontinence, and sometimes, even 18-year-olds experience it. 
  • Do more women suffer from UI than men? Nope! Although data obtained from 13 different studies states that the prevalence of UI in women varies from 30% to 50% in different age groups while the percentage of men suffering from UI is half that of women, this wide gap in numbers could be attributed to poor reporting rather than lesser prevalence. According to NAFC, only 1 out of 12 people report incontinence issues due to the stigma attached to the condition.
  • Another mistaken but widespread belief is that it could be brought on by childbirth or menopause. These conditions could aggravate the situation due to a weakened pelvic floor or loss of estrogen, but they are not the sole contributors to the loss of bladder control.

Facts About the Probable Causes of Urinary Incontinence

While myths abound, here’s a clear and concise look at all possible underlying causes of Urinary Incontinence. 

  • Excessive weight gain causes pressure build-up on the bladder resulting in infrequent and involuntary urine discharge. Conversely, sudden weight loss or frequent fluctuations in weight can also lead to muscular atrophy in the nether regions.
  • Occasional urine leakage may occur due to sneezing, coughing, laughing, and other abrupt actions because of stress, trauma, or injuries.
  • Birth defects, i.e., urinary tract developmental problems in the prenatal stage. 
  • Prostate cancer, radiation therapy, and surgery could lead to UI in men.
  • Urinary Tract Infections could irritate the bladder, leading to frequent urges to empty it, sometimes involuntarily. 
  • Damage to the signal-carrying nerves in the micturition pathways might result in delayed responses from the brain leading to spontaneous leakage.
  • Diseases such as diabetes, chronic cough, kidney stones, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s could also be the underlying causes of poor bladder control.
  • Chronic gastrointestinal problems like constipation can weaken the pelvic floor
  • Certain medicines like diuretics, antidepressants, Blood Pressure monitoring drugs, and oral estrogen pills have also been known to exacerbate the situation, if not be the outright cause.

Suspicions of UI should be promptly reported to your health care practitioner so it can be dealt with immediately. Fear of embarrassment shouldn't keep you from seeking early treatment and faster resolution. Unless it is a chronic condition that will require further diagnostic testing and elaborate treatment, bladder control can be regained effectively with minimal changes to diet, exercise, and medication. The prognosis is positive for 80% of UI cases.

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