Can’t control when you’ve got to go?
Have you ever felt a sudden urge to use the bathroom? Or accidentally peed or pooped in your pants? Do you have to plan your day around bathrooms and how quickly you can get to them?
If anything like this has happened to you, don’t worry. You’re in good company.
Urinary and fecal incontinence — characterized as the loss of control of the bladder and the rectum or anus — is more common than you think. While the prevalence of incontinence is not fully understood due to the negative stigma associated with these conditions, experts believe as many as one in six Americans struggle with incontinence every day.
“Countless patients have sought help for these conditions that, understandably, cause so much shame, embarrassment and emotional distress,” says Dr. Joaquin Estrada, a colorectal surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “What I tell each and every single one of them is that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Thanks to advancements in medicine, patients can regain control of their bodies.”
The first step to regaining control is education. Dr. Estrada shares five things you need to know about incontinence:
- There are different types of urinary incontinence. The most common types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence: The most common type of urinary incontinence among all women in which stress to the bladder, such as laughing, coughing or sneezing, can cause urine loss.
- Urge incontinence: The most common type of urinary incontinence among menopausal women and patients with a neurologic program in which urine loss is caused by involuntary contractions of the bladder.
- Overactive bladder: Another type of bladder issue that occurs mostly in women and causes them to suddenly need to urinate.
- Incontinence can be caused by a variety of factors. Causes are as diverse as the people who live with the conditions. Factors that can increase your likelihood of developing incontinence include advanced age, dietary triggers, a weakened or damaged pelvic floor, diarrhea or constipation, pregnancy and childbirth, pelvic organ prolapse, previous surgery or trauma.
- While there is no definitive way to prevent incontinence, there are steps you can take to drive down your risk, including physical therapy.
- Here’s the good news: There are comprehensive treatment options to help you regain control of your bladder and bowel. They include conservative approaches, such as dietary changes and medications, to more innovative approaches including minimally invasive nerve stimulation.
- And there’s even more good news. More than 80 percent of people who seek and receive help for incontinence see positive outcomes and improved control over their conditions, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“People tend to keep these symptoms to themselves because they are embarrassed to talk about it. To anyone who is experiencing incontinence, I strongly urge you to find a doctor whom you trust to learn more about the condition and explore treatment options,” Dr. Estrada says.
About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Illinois Masonic in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.