The urinary system is composed of two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder, and the urethra. The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and form urine. Urine then travels through the tube-like ureters and is stored in the bladder before it is eliminated from the body via the urethra.
The term urinary incontinence refers to a weakness or inability to control the flow of urine from the body. Urinary incontinence is most common in women. Approximately 10 percent of all women have regular incontinence, and nearly 20 percent of women over age 75 experience daily urinary incontinence. At least 50 percent of women have experienced incontinence at some time in their lives.
There are many causes of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence is the most common. It occurs when the strength of the urethral sphincter is diminished, and the sphincter is not able to prevent urine flow when there is increased pressure from the abdomen. Some of the risk factors for this type of incontinence include age, damage to the urethra and childbirth.
Urge incontinence occurs when the bladder muscle contracts inappropriately. Often the contractions occur regardless of the amount of urine that is in the bladder. Urge incontinence may result from spinal cord injury, neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, infection, or bladder cancer; in men, benign prostatic hypertrophy may also be a risk factor.
A doctor can prescribe an appropriate treatment according to the severity and cause of the incontinence.