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About Incontinence

What is incontinence?
Who has incontinence?
What causes incontinence?
What types of incontinence are there?
What treatment and management options are available?

Incontinence Fact Sheets Library

What is incontinence?
Incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder and/or bowel control, resulting in the loss of urine and/or fecal matter.

Who has incontinence?
According to recent reports by the US National Institutes of Health, approximately twenty million adult women and six million adult men experience or have experienced urinary incontinence in the US - with countless more living with fecal incontinence. None of these statistics represent how many children are affected by incontinence. One of the common myths about incontinence is that it only affects older people or women. Actually, men, women and children of all ages and races can experience incontinence, but it is more common in older adults and women, especially women who have had children.

What causes incontinence?
Incontinence is not a disease in and of itself. Rather, it is a symptom of something else that is going wrong, or not working quite right, in the body.  That is why it is always important to see a doctor about any problems with incontinence or leakage of urine or fecal matter. Learn more about factors that can contribute to incontinence.

Couple with Doctor

What types of incontinence are there?
There are different types of urinary incontinence, and there is also fecal (also called bowel) incontinence. The two main types of urinary incontinence are stress urinary incontinence (SUI), which occurs when you laugh, sneeze, cough, or otherwise exert pressure on your pelvic floor, and urge incontinence, which occurs when you have a sudden and intense urge to urinate - even if you emptied your bladder a short while ago. Learn more about the different types of incontinence.

What treatment and management options are available?
There are many different treatment options available for both urinary and fecal incontinence, including Kegel exercises, electrical stimulation, bulking agents, dietary changes, medication, injections, and several types of surgeries. In some cases, incontinence can't be treated/cured, and it must be managed using tools such as absorbent products and urine collection devices. It is important to speak with a nurse or doctor before attempting any treatment, or if you use products to manage incontinence. Learn more about available treatments and management options for incontinence.

Page last modified 23 January 2014