Understanding Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a topic people are often too embarrassed to talk about. However, it’s a more common problem than many people may realize, and a problem that may be made better with answers to some important questions.


What is incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control. Cases can vary, range from mild to extreme, and be temporary or long-term.


What causes it?
There are different types of incontinence, caused by different factors. Incontinence is more common in women than it is in men, and it also becomes more common with age. Being overweight or smoking can contribute to incontinence. And while an inconvenience and a problem in itself, incontinence is commonly a symptom of another underlying problem or medical condition.

Stress incontinence is caused by muscle weakness and characterized by loss of urine when laughing, coughing, sneezing or similar stress on the bladder.

Urge incontinence is also called overactive bladder. While there is no known cause, it can be triggered by infection, disease or other problems, and is characterized by a sudden, immediate urge to urinate.

Overflow incontinence is the inability to empty the bladder, which results in the constant need to urinate. It may be caused by nerve damage, prostate problems or other factors.

Mixed incontinence is the term used for a combination of more than one type of urinary incontinence.

Can incontinence be prevented?
Not always. However, there are certain things that can help prevent incontinence. They include eating a healthy diet rich in fiber, exercising (including doing exercises to strengthen the bladder muscles), maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking.


Can incontinence be treated?
Yes. Treatment for incontinence varies depending on the type of incontinence and severity of the problem. Some types of incontinence can be treated with changes in medications, habits, and the amounts and types of beverages consumed. Other types can be treated with physical therapy, medication, or surgery. One revolutionary treatment is InterStim® Therapy. This minimally invasive implant procedure stimulates the sacral nerve and has been proven to help with urinary control.

What should someone do if he or she is experiencing incontinence?
Talk to a doctor. Remember that incontinence is a common medical problem, and one that can be made less embarrassing and problematic with proper diagnosis and treatment.

On Monday, July 18, St. Petersburg General Hospital is sponsoring “New Minimally Invasive Treatments for Urinary Incontinence,” a lecture by Meena Jain, MD. Dr. Jain will discuss pelvic health and urinary control options. The event will be held at 2:00 pm at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay, 1255 Pasadena Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33707. Please call 1-888-741-5122 for more information or to RSVP. 



St. Petersburg General Hospital Health Library


National Institutes of Health

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

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