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Adult Incontinence: How Common Is it?

New surveys show that urinary incontinence -- a problem with bladder control -- is quite common.
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WebMD Health News

Lifestyle Changes, Medication, Exercises Can Help Treat Urinary Incontinence

May 23, 2005 -- If you've recently had a problem with bladder control, you're far from alone.

New surveys show that urinary incontinence -- a problem with bladder control -- is quite common. Both surveys were reported at this week's annual meeting of the American Urological Association in San Antonio.

UCLA researcher Jennifer Tash Anger, MD, and colleagues with the Urologic Diseases in America Project analyzed data from the huge National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Of the 23.5 million women surveyed, 38% said they'd suffered at least one episode of urinary incontinence in the last year. Among these women:

  • 13.7% of women with bladder control problems said they suffered incontinence every day.
  • 10% of women with bladder control problems said they suffered incontinence every week.
  • Bladder control problems were more common in non-Hispanic whites (41%) than in non-Hispanic blacks (20%) or Mexican-Americans (36%).
  • As women get older, daily incontinence is more common. Among women aged 60-64, 12% report daily incontinence. This increases to 21% of women aged 85 and older.

Ananias C. Diokno, MD, chairman of urology at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., reported on data from a national sample of 21,590 men.

They found that 9% of men reported a bladder control problem in the last 30 days. Among these men:

  • 29% of men with a bladder control problem reported stress urinary incontinence. That means they had trouble controlling their bladder when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercising.
  • 41% of men with a bladder control problem reported urge urinary incontinence. That means a strong, sudden urge to urinate followed by an involuntary bladder contraction and loss of urine.
  • 16% of men with a bladder control problem had mixed stress and urge incontinence.
  • 27% of men with a prostate condition had urinary incontinence.

There are lifestyle changes, exercises, and medications that can help improve bladder control:

  • Avoid drinking excess amounts of diuretics.
  • A popular set of exercises called Kegel exercises strengthens the muscles that are squeezed when trying to stop urinating midstream.
  • For those who smoke, stop smoking. Nicotine irritates the bladder.
  • Wearing protective devices such as absorbent products, underwear, and adult diapers or using bed pads can also help manage urinary incontinence.
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