How does incontinence start?


How does incontinence start? is a question a caregiver or a concerned relative may ask a doctor –maybe even covertly asking it about themselves. Incontinence can start as a leakage or even a dribble; an accident if you will. Perhaps you sneezed or coughed or laughed a little bit too hard. Perhaps you didn’t have enough time to get to the bathroom, or maybe you had one drink too many. There are many ways to rationalize it, especially when we take into account the fact that most people would not only fail to notify the problem to a physician, but would actually attempt to hide it, out of embarrassment.

You shouldn’t ignore the signs, though. Even the Amazon starts as a single drop of water, and once the flood gates are opened, you may end up with a Niagara-sized problem in your pants, if you do nothing about it. And that’s only speaking of incontinence itself, which is usually a symptom of a condition and not a condition on its own. Therefore, the start of incontinence could indeed be the start of something much, much worse, such as bladder or prostate cancer. So if you thought that incontinence was pretty bad, you may be in for a rude awakening.


There is no set answer to the question ‘how does incontinence start,’ because even though this is a problem that can affect anyone, the risk factors vary depending on different circumstances. For example, women have a higher risk of experiencing stress incontinence than men. Older people, regardless of gender, are also more likely to develop this issue, since aging weakens the muscles in the bladder and urethra. Also, as the years go by the bladder loses some –or a lot- of its holding capacity. Obesity strains the bladder as well, letting urine escape when coughing or sneezing. Speaking of coughing, chronic cough resulting from a smoking habit cause or worsen incontinence. 

Other causes include bladder irritation, medications, urinary tract infections, constipation, pregnancy and childbirth, a hysterectomy, painful bladder syndrome, prostatitis, an enlarged prostate, bladder stones, and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, brain tumor and spinal injury. Regardless of the causes, incontinence is not something you have to take lying down, or in any other position besides standing in front or sitting on top of a toilet. Now that we know how incontinence starts, we can see about how to stop it.
The ideal thing to do would be to prevent incontinence altogether by keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, practicing kegel exercise (for pregnant women), avoiding bladder irritants, eating more fiber, and exercising. In other words, leading a healthy lifestyle. Failing all of that, you can inform your doctor as soon as you experience the first symptoms of incontinence. These symptoms include loss of urine when exerting pressure, a sudden and intense urge to urinate, frequent or constant dribbling, and of course the involuntary loss of urine. If incontinence is disrupting your daily activities, it’s time to see a physician.
Said physician may advise behavioral techniques (bladder training, scheduled toilet trips, fluid and diet management), recommend physical therapy (pelvic floor muscle exercises, electrical stimulation), prescribe medications (anticholinergics, topical estrogen, imipramine, duloxetine), insert medical devices (urethral inserts, pessaries), suggest interventional therapies (bulking material injections, botulinum toxin type A, nerve stimulators), perform surgery (sling procedures, bladder neck suspension, artificial urinary sphincter), or opt for absorbent pads and catheters.