5 myths about incontinence

When nature calls, and keeps calling

While urinary incontinence (the loss of bladder control) is common, it’s not often discussed — leading to the spread of myths about it. Some people even feel embarrassed discussing the issue with their doctors. There are two primary types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence is caused by weakened pelvic floor or sphincter muscles, which can cause you to leak urine when you cough, sneeze or make movements that put pressure on your bladder. Urge incontinence is caused by the bladder muscles becoming overactive, which can give you a strong urge to go to the bathroom even when you have little urine in your bladder. Many people have symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence. This combination is often referred to as mixed incontinence.

Dr. Emily Cole, a board-certified urologist affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital, recently addressed the top five myths surrounding urinary incontinence.


“Incontinence is just a normal part of aging.”

While age can contribute to the likelihood you’ll experience incontinence, it’s not inevitable. Several factors can play a role, including childbirth, obesity, smoking and other medical conditions.


“‘Holding it in’ or forcing yourself ‘to go’ are great ways to deal with incontinence.”

Teaching yourself bad bladder habits, such as holding it in or forcing yourself to go when you don’t feel an urge, can disrupt the normal balance of your pelvic floor, which plays a key role in bladder control.


“Incontinence only affects women.”

Incontinence is much more common in women, but men can experience it as well.


“Women who have given birth will forever have to deal with a little leakage.”

While incontinence can be experienced during pregnancy and after childbirth, it often will get better over time as the muscles of the pelvis heal. If it doesn’t improve, there are exercises, lifestyle changes and other treatments that can help.


“You either have to have surgery or learn to deal with urinary incontinence.”

There are several nonsurgical therapies that can treat urinary incontinence. These include improved bladder habits, physical therapy, medications, pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.

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