Well, hello there! If you’re here, it’s likely that you or someone you care for is in need of supplies related to incontinence. Welcome to the club! There are plenty of medical reasons, across a variety of conditions, in which people might experience incontinence. It’s definitely not just about getting older (although, yes, that is a big factor).
(trigger warnings: discussion of surgeries related to reproductive organs, pregnancy & childbirth, spinal injuries)
Temporary medical conditions that could cause urinary incontinence (UI) include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Post-prostatectomy recovery (1← italicized numbers in parentheses are footnotes, sources at bottom of blog)
- Post-urethroplasty recovery (2)
- Consuming diets that have diuretic foods and drinks (diuretic means it makes you have to pee more often)
All these above conditions are common, and can happen to a lot of us.
Naturally-occurring conditions that aren’t diseases or disorders can cause temporary or persisting UI, such as:
- Life after childbirth
- Weakening of bladder muscles with age (3)
There’s a lot that we’re not taught when it comes to how bodies adjust after giving birth. If you’re someone who can’t give birth or who hasn’t given birth, you might not have known that UI is a common experience for many people who have had kids. Pregnancy, childbirth, and medical procedures related to childbirth put a huge strain on peoples’ bodies, and that strain usually has a lasting impact (in addition to creating life, or whatever, no big deal).
Chronic health issues can cause UI too! For example:
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) hypermobile type
- Enlarged prostate
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Spina bifida
- Certain cancers: prostate, urinary tract, brain
- Neurological disorders and conditions: multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, spinal injuries, dementia (4)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (5)
- Some medications for chronic conditions: oral estrogen, alpha-blockers, some psych meds & sleep aids, ACE inhibitors, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium channel blockers (6)
With such a variety of conditions that can cause UI, it goes to show how connected all these different parts of our bodies are. Stuff going on in your brain impacts how you pee. Stuff going on in your connective tissue impacts how you pee. “The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone. The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone,” except it’s “the autoimmune system’s connected to the nervous system. The nervous system is connected to the muscle system” and different variations of that!
You can also imagine how UI can become an indirect symptom of some chronic illnesses, such as if you have arthritis or other physical or mental disabilities, so you may have physical difficulty in getting to a bathroom and undoing your pants in time. “The arthritis finger bones are too connected to the arthritis wrist and neither of them can move to the right place to pull these pants down…” That one’s not as catchy.
Fecal incontinence (FI) can be caused by some of the same conditions as UI (like life after childbirth; nerve damage from diabetes; multiple sclerosis & other neurological disorders; spina bifida, etc.) but can also be caused by additional conditions. Now, I know some individuals may not want to read about it, but it’s something that a lot of people are dealing with. Let’s try to reduce the stigma and talk about FI in a neutral way, like how we talk about other kinds of symptoms. If people feel embarrassed to talk about their health challenges, then it’s harder for them to get support and treatment. I have noticed that many people easily internalize embarrassment, so that it goes from “this symptom is embarrassing” to “I’m embarrassing because I have this symptom” pretty quickly. And that doesn’t help anyone. Having to maintain your human body can be overwhelming, so let’s be kind to each other about it. That’s my encouragement for you to keep reading, alright? You can do it. Moving on…
(trigger warning: discussion of childbirth-related procedures and tools)
Temporary medical conditions that could cause FI include:
- Gas and bloating (7)
Many of the causes of chronic or recurring FI have to do with nerve damage, where the brain and the sphincter muscles are just not communicating like they should. People who have given birth are at higher risk for this kind of nerve damage than those who have not or cannot give birth. (8)
Additional chronic health issues include:
- Conditions caused by specific childbirth conditions that impact the birthing parent, such as a doctor needing to use forceps, the baby being big, and if the doctor did an episiotomy (9)
- Conditions caused by pelvic surgeries or hysterectomies
- Conditions and treatments that reduce rectal storage capacity, such as radiation treatments, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and surgery
- Hirschsprung disease, which is a birth defect that results in missing nerves at the end of children’s bowels (10)
- Physical inactivity accompanied by aging
I hope you learned something new by reading this, and I apologize if it spurred a Wikipedia spiral where you went down a rabbit-hole learning more about bowel-related health than what you were planning for today (it happened to me too while writing this, we’re buddies now if you did it). Regardless of the reason for incontinence, just know that Magic Medical has got your butt covered (pun enthusiastically intended and I will not apologize for it).