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The fact is that she is far from alone, more than 13 million people in the United States--male and female, young and old--experience incontinence. Many times it is temporary, and it always results from an underlying medical condition.
Women experience incontinence two times more often than men. Pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract account for this difference. But both women and men can become incontinent from strokes, multiple sclerosis, and physical problems associated with old age.
Older women, more often than younger women, experience incontinence. But incontinence is not inevitable with age. Incontinence is treatable and often curable at all ages. If you experience incontinence, you may feel embarrassed. It may help you to remember that loss of bladder control can be treated. You will need to overcome your embarrassment and see a doctor to learn if you need treatment for an underlying medical condition.
Incontinence in women usually occurs because of problems with muscles that help to hold or release urine. The body stores urine--water and wastes removed by the kidneys--in the bladder, a balloon-like organ. The bladder connects to the urethra, the tube through which urine leaves the body.
During urination, muscles in the wall of the bladder contract, forcing urine out of the bladder and into the urethra. At the same time, sphincter muscles surrounding the urethra relax, letting urine pass out of the body. Incontinence will occur if your bladder muscles suddenly contract or muscles surrounding the urethra suddenly relax.
Adapted from the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
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