WHEN SOMEONE IS INCONTINENT
Urinary or bladder incontinence is a common condition affecting millions of people. It involves a loss of bladder control. People with urinary incontinence are not able to hold their urine. The loss of bladder control causes a problem for the person involved and often for those close to them. You need to understand incontinence so that you can assist people affected by this condition.
Urinary incontinence may last for days, weeks or months. In some cases, it never goes away. Not being able to control urine can be very embarrassing and uncomfortable. Family and friends may even start to avoid being around the person who is incontinent.
In Canada, over 1.5 million people experience incontinence. More than 13 million people in the United States and at least three million adults in the United Kingdom cannot control their bladders.
Urinary incontinence is more common in older people. Some of the changes that occur with aging may contribute to bladder problems. Urinary incontinence is not considered a “normal” part of aging, however. You do not have to be elderly to be affected by it. Incontinence occurs in males and females, young and old.
Urinary incontinence is not a disease. It is a symptom of some other problem in the body. If the person in your care appears to be incontinent, advise him to discuss his condition with a physician. Incontinence can usually be cured, treated, or successfully managed.
HOW THE NORMAL BLADDER FUNCTIONS
Your bladder is really a muscle. It holds the urine that your kidneys produce. The kidneys make urine all the time, day and night. Urine contains waste products and excess water from our bodies. Urine travels down tubes (called ureters) from the kidneys to the bladder a little bit at a time.
We produce about two to three pints (1.5 liters) every 24 hours depending on how much we eat, drink, and sweat. As our bladders fill with urine, they expand carefully, almost like a balloon. Muscles around the bladder help prevent the urine from leaking out of the bladder outlet (urethra).
Our brains are always checking to see how full our bladders are. When the bladder starts to get full, the brain receives a message that we need to go to the bathroom. We then look for the right time and place to go to the bathroom. Most of us need to empty our bladders about four to eight times a day. Sometimes something goes “wrong” with this process. Problems develop with the brain, bladder, or muscles surrounding the bladder. Incontinence can result.