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Incontinence Fact Sheet

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder control. It is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying problem in the urinary tract.

What are the different types of urinary incontinence?

Although there are several types of urinary incontinence, stress, urge and mixed comprise 90 percent of all cases. Stress incontinence occurs when a person leaks urine during a sudden increase in intraabdominal pressure, which may occur during sneezing, laughing, coughing or exercise. Urge incontinence is associated with an abrupt and strong desire to void along with a sudden uncontrollable rush of urine. People with mixed incontinence experience a combination of stress and urge incontinence, usually beginning with stress and later developing into urge. Other types of urinary incontinence include overflow, neurogenic and post-prostatectomy.

How many Americans are affected by urinary incontinence?

An estimated 17 million Americans suffer from urinary incontinence, and 85 percent are women. Women typically become incontinent as a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles resulting from pregnancy or childbirth, menopausal hormonal changes or changes associated with aging.

Does urinary incontinence affect mostly elderly people?

While people of all ages can be incontinent, about half of the geriatric population experiences incontinent episodes, and more than 50 percent of elderly persons in nursing homes are incontinent, according to the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR).

How do people cope with urinary incontinence?

Many choose to wear adult diapers, which exceeded $1.5 billion in sales in 1996. An estimated 30 percent of all sanitary napkins are purchased by women for urinary incontinence management. In fact, one study found that 63 percent of incontinent women purchased a product that was intended for menstrual use.

How do incontinent people who don't use absorbent products manage their condition?

Some people only go to familiar places where they have memorized bathroom locations. Others always carry a spare set of clothes. Many people avoid social outings altogether. It is estimated that incontinence decreases social activity and quality of life for 25 to 50 percent of sufferers, according to the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy.

Can people with urinary incontinence have sex?

Incontinence can have a great impact on patients' sexual activity, and therefore many avoid it completely. More than half of sexually active women with bladder control problems have sexual difficulties, such as urine leakage during sexual intercourse.

Can urinary incontinence affect men?

Yes, more than 330,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and many will require prostate surgery, the leading cause of incontinence in men. It is estimated that as many as 65 percent of all men who have undergone radical prostatectomy experience a lack of bladder control six months or longer following surgery.

What kinds of treatments are available for urinary incontinence?

Traditional treatment options include surgery, pharmaceuticals, biofeedback, electrical stimulation and catheterization, all of which have the potential to produce harmful side effects. Surgical procedures, such as bladder neck suspension and bladder tucks, can be expensive and tend to involve lengthy recovery periods. In addition, surgery is not appropriate for all patients. Pharmaceuticals can also be an expensive option and may result in numerous side effects, including dizziness, fatigue and respiratory problems. Biofeedback is highly dependent on the person teaching the technique, the patient's ability to isolate their pelvic floor muscles and their willingness to practice at home as well as continue the exercise program once trained. E-stim is invasive, requires tolerance for a probe and can be uncomfortable or even painful. Catheterization may lead to urinary tract infections or loss of mobility. A recently introduced treatment option, magnetic therapy or Extracorporeal Magnetic Innervation (ExMI™), has been proven to be effective in treating stress, urge and mixed incontinence in females and has no known side effects. ExMI is non-invasive, painless and can be performed while the patient remains fully clothed.

How many Americans seek treatment for urinary incontinence?

Only 1 in 12 Americans suffering from urinary incontinence seeks help from a physician. Many people are too embarrassed to discuss incontinence or believe their doctors will not take their problem seriously. Approximately 80 percent of those who have sought medical treatment for bladder control problems can be improved or even cured (AHCPR-1996).

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