Incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine or feces, leading to difficulties in controlling bladder or bowel functions. It is a common condition that can affect people of all ages, but it is more prevalent among older adults. Incontinence can have various causes and severity levels, and it can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Incontinence is a condition characterized by the inability to control bladder or bowel movements, resulting in involuntary leakage of urine or feces. It can occur due to a variety of factors, including weakened pelvic muscles, nerve damage, hormonal changes, certain medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle factors.

There are different types of incontinence:

Stress incontinence: Leakage of urine occurs during physical activities that put pressure on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, or exercising. It is often caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles.

Urge incontinence: Also known as overactive bladder, it is characterized by a sudden, strong urge to urinate followed by involuntary urine leakage. It can be caused by an overactive bladder muscle or neurological conditions.

Overflow incontinence: In this type, the bladder does not empty completely, leading to frequent or constant dribbling of urine. It can occur when the bladder muscles are weak or when there is a blockage in the urinary tract.

Functional incontinence: It refers to the inability to reach the toilet in time due to physical or cognitive impairments, such as mobility issues or dementia, rather than a bladder or bowel problem.

Mixed incontinence: This occurs when a person experiences a combination of different types of incontinence, such as both stress and urge incontinence.

Incontinence can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, causing embarrassment, social withdrawal, and psychological distress. However, it is important to note that incontinence is a treatable condition, and various management strategies and treatment options are available to help individuals effectively manage and improve their symptoms.

If you are enduring frequent trips to the bathroom or the inability to hold your bladder or bowels, you are not alone. Many women suffer from pelvic disorders that cause uncomfortable symptoms like leakage. At Sharp Mary Birch, we are San Diego’s only hospital dedicated to the care of women — and we have treatments that can help.

Forms of incontinence you may be experiencing:

  • Overactive bladder – a sudden and unstoppable need to urinate, even though the bladder may only contain a small amount of urine
  • Stress incontinence – pelvic muscles have been damaged, causing the bladder or bowels to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or any body movement that puts pressure on the bladder
  • Urge incontinence – the urgent need to urinate but the inability to get to the bathroom in time
  • Overflow incontinence – leakage that occurs when the quantity of urine produced exceeds the volume that the bladder can hold

Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you don’t get to a toilet in time.

Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle and dietary changes or medical care can treat symptoms of urinary incontinence.