If you experience any degree of incontinence or bladder weakness then you aren't alone! In the UK today there are up to six million people who experience these symptoms. The most important thing to realize is that the symptoms can be treated with professional help and the problem can often be cured.
Although the incidence of incontinence and bladder weakness does increase with age, surveys show that 6% of women aged 15-44 have the condition so it is far more common than you might think.
Urinary incontinence is often considered a female problem, but this is only partly true. Although in younger age groups, more women than men experience this condition, the differences are equalized around the age of 70, so in later life, almost as many men as women suffer from incontinence.
There are a wide variety of reasons why you may experience bladder weakness or faecal incontinence:
- Weakened Pelvic Floor Muscles - The bladder and outlet passage are supported and held in place by a sling of muscles called pelvic floor muscles that keep the bladder closed. If these muscles lose their strength and/or flexibility (often caused by trauma to the entrance to the bladder, 'pelvic floor' or bowel during childbirth) then even everyday activities such as coughing may cause leaking.
Being overweight can also put an added strain onto pelvic floor muscles.
- Birth Defect - You may have been born with a defective bladder or sphincter, which means you've always leaked or start to leak once other factors add to the problem.
- Menopause -With the menopause, due to the reduction in the quantity of oestrogen many women notice that their bladder becomes lax, with leakage of urine.
- Illness - Kidney or urinary tract infections can cause temporary bladder weakness or incontinence. Severe constipation can also cause these conditions to occur.
- Nerve Damage - It can be caused by nerve damage, such as spinal cord injury, or with nerve diseases like multiple sclerosis.
- Other - Surgery, Medications, or an oversensitive bladder can also lead to bladder weakness.
Read about some incontinence statistics here.