Over 13 million American men and women of all ages suffer from incontinence, causing them to leak urine. Urinary incontinence is not a disease, but instead a sign that a problem exists in the urinary tract; it is the result of a variety of anatomic, physiologic, and/or pathologic factors. It is considered an important condition to treat, because it can lead to social isolation, low self-esteem, depression and dependence.
During the filling and storage phase, the bladder stretches so it can hold increasings amount of urine. The bladder of an average person can hold 350 ml to 550 ml of urine. Generally, a person feels like they need to urinate when approximately 200 ml of urine fills up in the bladder. The nervous system tells you that you need to urinate. It also allows the bladder to continue to fill.
The emptying phase requires the detrusor muscle to contract, forcing urine out of the bladder. The sphincter muscle must relax at the same time, so that urine can flow out of the body. Undesired bladder muscle contractions may occur from nervous system (neurological) problems and bladder irritation.
Overactive bladder is a common cause, yielding uncontrolled contractions of the detrusor muscle during bladder filling. These contractions may cause urge urinary incontinence, urgency and frequency. Urge urinary incontinence is one of the most disturbing symptoms of overactive bladder and is characterized by a strong desire to void that is associated with an involuntary loss of urine.
There are three major types of incontinence:
- Stress - leakage only with increased pressure as in coughing or jumping
- Urge - leakage due to an overpowering sensation of impending urination
- Overflow - people with overflow incontinence do not feel the urge to urinate. The bladder never empties normally and remains at least partially full; small amounts of urine are leaked on a nearly continuous basis. Weak bladder muscles -- caused by nerve damage from diabetes or other diseases -- or a blocked urethra can be responsible.
The term "overactive bladder" describes a wide range of symptoms that include urge urinary incontinence, urgency, and frequency. From a holistic standpoint, most bladder control problems that are not the direct result of neurological damage, poor muscle tone or hormone
deficiencies are usually the result of irritability within the bladder or urethral tissues caused by chronic
inflammation and/or food allergies
Urge incontinence may also result from:
- Bladder cancer
- Bladder inflammation
- Bladder outlet obstruction
- Bladder stones
- Neurological diseases (such as multiple sclerosis)
- Neurological injuries (such as spinal cord injury or stroke)
In men, urge incontinence also may be due to:
Although urge incontinence may occur in anyone at any age, it is more common in women and the elderly.
In most cases of urge incontinence, no specific cause can be identified.