Urinary Incontinence

The National Association for Continence (NAFC) calls urinary incontinence a symptom, not a disease and says that's important to remember because symptoms can be treated, if people will talk about them. It's estimated that some 12 million people suffer from incontinence or uncontrollable loss of urine in the United States. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that it's most common in women over the age of 50 and women who have just given birth, but it also affects younger people, and it is also common in young children.

Incontinence can occur when there are problems with the urinary system and with bladder control. NIA, NAFC and AAFP say the different types include:

  • Overactive bladder (OAB)
  • Stress incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Functional incontinence
  • Nocturia
  • Bedwetting or enuresis

Many adults with incontinence are embarrassed. They try to hide the fact from everyone, including their doctors, but they are not alone. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) one in ten people over the age of 65 is incontinent. That's over ten million people according to NAFC. The group also says that 80 percent of incontinent people can be cured or have major improvement.

Fecal Incontinence

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) calls fecal incontinence the inability to control your bowels. When you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, you may not be able to hold it until you can get to a toilet. Or stool may leak from the rectum unexpectedly.

More than 6.5 million Americans have fecal incontinence. It affects people of all ages - children as well as adults. Fecal incontinence is more common in women than in men and more common in older adults than in younger ones. It is not, however, a normal part of aging.

Loss of bowel control can be devastating. People who have fecal incontinence may feel ashamed, embarrassed or humiliated. Some don't want to leave the house out of fear they might have an accident in public. The social isolation is unfortunate but may be reduced because treatment can improve bowel control and make incontinence easier to manage.

Fecal incontinence can have several causes, according to NIDDK:

  • Damage to the anal sphincter muscles
  • Damage to the nerves of the anal sphincter muscles or the rectum
  • Loss of storage capacity in the rectum
  • Diarrhea
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction

For more information about urinary incontinence, please click here.

For more information about fecal incontinence, please click here.