Does incontinence affect only women?

Urinary incontinence strikes both men and women, but women are more susceptible to it for a variety of reasons.

It is an embarrassing condition that most women keep quiet about. They are so ashamed of it that they do not tell anyone about it, choosing instead to suffer in mortified silence. Many women who suffer from this condition also blame it on their advancing years.

We’re talking about urinary incontinence.

What causes it?

Urinary incontinence is often the result of weakened sphincter muscles that lie around the urethra. Ordinarily, these muscles control the flow of urine from the bladder – they close the bladder as it fills up with urine, though you get the sensation that you need to visit the restroom. The sphincter muscles keep the bladder closed till your brain signals for them to open and let the urine flow.

However, when these muscles are weakened, urine may involuntarily seep out even when the bladder is not full. This action is out of your control – it can happen at any time, even with a light laugh or sneeze. The urine leaks out into the clothes and makes them wet. It also begins to emit a foul odour as it dries on the clothes.

Why women are more susceptible to incontinence

Though both men and women are affected by urinary incontinence, the chances of women contracting the condition are higher. There are anatomical and biological reasons for this.

Childbirth. A woman’s sphincter muscles are considerably weakened during pregnancy as the bladder becomes full and presses down on them often. But in some women, a difficult labour and long hours spent trying to deliver the child out of the birth canal can cause the sphincter muscles to weaken. Over time, the muscles can become completely flaccid and lead to incontinence.

Menopause. Menopause causes the urethral lining to thin down over time. Meanwhile, the pelvic floor becomes weaker, thus leading to uncontrolled urination.

Urinary tract infections. Menopause, improper hygiene, unprotected sex and even consumption of antibiotics may lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs further result in urinary incontinence.

Other reasons. Injury to the bladder area, surgery for gallstones, nerve damage and even mental disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease may lead to incontinence.

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