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What are the Causes of Adult Incontinence?

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  • Written By: Jessica Hobby
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Urinary continence in adults, often referred to as adult incontinence, occurs when urine leaks from the urethra, which is the vessel that carries urine from the bladder. Adult incontinence may be sudden and temporary or continual and long term. Additionally, adults who suffer from incontinence my only have slight leakage or they may have complete leakage characterized by the inability to hold any amount of urine. Adult incontinence, most frequent in the elderly and women, is a symptom with many possible causes.

Causes of sudden or temporary incontinence typically occur because of pressure on the bladder induced by specific medical conditions. For example, pregnant women, obese adults and those who are severely constipated may experience adult incontinence. A fetus, extra fat and compacted bowels indirectly or directly put pressure on the bladder causing stress or urge incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when a person leaks urine while laughing, coughing, sneezing or exercising. Urge incontinence occurs when a person has an urge to urinate immediately followed by an involuntary release of urine.

Other causes of sudden or temporary incontinence include infections of the prostate and urinary tract, bed rest during surgical recovery and states of mental confusion such as delirium and dementia. Some medications also cause adult incontinence. Specifically, diuretics, anti-depressants and tranquilizers cause incontinence by altering chemicals and brain functions that control urination.

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Chronic and long-term urinary incontinence is typically a symptom of a serious medical condition. Any neurological conditions and diseases which may affect brain and nervous system functions may cause chronic adult incontinence. Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage and nerve damage may contribute to incontinence in adults.

Damage to the bladder in men or women and a damaged or enlarged prostate in men also cause urinary incontinence. These conditions may be symptoms of more severe complications, such as bladder cancer, bladder stones or prostate cancer. Similarly, damage to the bladder or prostate may occur during cancer treatment that includes radiation. Additionally, men and women who have had injuries or surgical changes in the structure of their urethra may also suffer from chronic urinary incontinence.

Other causes of chronic and long-term adult incontinence are exclusive to women. Women who have had a hysterectomy or given birth multiple times will have muscle weakness in the area surrounding the vagina and the sphincter. This weakness leads to a pelvic wall prolapse, which includes falling of the bladder, urethra, or rectum into the vagina. The pressure caused by these falling pelvic organs may cause acute incontinence.

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