Incontinence: Signs, symptoms and risk factors

Archive, July, Month

The condition is often the result — not the cause — of an underlying condition.

It’s a subject of embarrassment for many, but it’s also much more common than most might think.

And in the vast majority of cases, it’s beyond their control.

When people begin making accommodations for their urinary and fecal incontinence, to the point it begins dictating daily life decisions, says Dr. Andrew Agosta, the point has arrived to seek medical help.

“It’s very tough speaking with some of my patients who felt they had to weigh the risk of an incontinence episode against going out for an everyday activity,” said the urogynecologist with McLaren Macomb. “Incontinence is much more common than the average person may think, and it’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. And there’s hope — it’s a condition that can be treated and resolved.”

Both urinary and fecal incontinence are the results of underlying conditions — a symptom of another ailment rather than the cause — presenting in distinctive forms and is more likely to occur in those who live with certain risk factors.

Causes for incontinence are varied, and they can range between temporary symptoms (caused by an illness, side effect of a medication, or even certain foods or beverages) to persistent incontinence — prolonged symptoms of an underlying condition or physical change:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Obstruction of the urinary tract
  • Aging
  • Neurological conditions
  • Menopause
  • Hysterectomy
  • Prostate (enlarged or cancer)

Risk factors

  • Gender — women are more likely to develop urinary incontinence
  • Age — muscles controlling the bladder become weaker with age
  • Overweight — increases pressure on the bladder
  • Smoking — increases the risk
  • Family history — relatives with incontinence increases the risk of it developing in younger generations

Specialists will work directly with patients on a number of treatment options, addressing the underlying cause of incontinence and relieving its symptoms (along with the resulting anxieties).

Treatments are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the severity of the condition, which can range from strengthen exercises with a specially trained physical therapist to minimally invasive surgical procedures.