Whenever the subject of incontinence or bedwetting is brought up, it is normally related to small children. However, this problem can affect adults, more so as we age.

It is embarrassing to discover a wet patch on the bedsheets and mattress, as you find you have accidentally wet the bed; though it is not your fault.

There are many causes for incontinence in adults, and some possible options that may help fix or assist with the problem.

Probable causes for incontinence

First of all, incontinence is not just related to accidentally wetting the bed. It can occur unexpectedly, like an uncontrollable leak or urine flow after a physical exertion, e.g., a sneezing fit or a hearty laugh. For some people, standing or sitting, getting in and out of a chair or car, can cause incontinence.

Do consult your doctor, as incontinence can be related to a host of causes, most of which can be treated.

Some of the more common causes for incontinence may be:

  • Hormonal imbalance – a hormone called ADH is produced by the brain’s hypothalamus and stored in the pituitary gland. ADH helps your kidneys to regulate the water in your body. Less ADH is produced at night, which may cause bedwetting.
  • Diabetes – if you are ADH deficient, you may have a metabolism disorder called central diabetes insipidus, which causes excessive urination followed by extreme thirst.
  • Temporary urinary incontinence – drinking too much liquid like alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, etc., and filling your bladder up can cause leaks due to the pressure.
  • OAB (overactive bladder) – the detrusor muscle contracts during urination to squeeze the urine out of the bladder into the urethra. If you have OAB, these muscles are overactive and squeeze too frequently, causing leaks.
  • Medication – certain medication like sleeping pills or antipsychotic pills can disrupt bladder functions.
  • Stress incontinence – if you strain yourself while having a bowel movement, the pelvic floor muscles which are located near the rectum, are weakened and will cause urine leaks.
  • Bladder cancer – can also cause incontinence.
  • Brain disorders – uncontrollable movements, e.g., seizures, fits, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease can cause incontinence.
  • Childbirth – pregnancy and multiple births can weaken the pelvic muscles leading to incontinence.
  • Aging – as we all age, our overall body condition weakens, and this affects the way our bladder functions in its capacity to hold in urine.
  • Menopause – women produce less estrogen after menopause, which helps maintain the linings of the bladder and urethra. A drop in estrogen can aggravate incontinence.
  • Prostate cancer – untreated prostate cancer or the side effects of treatments for prostate cancer can cause incontinence.
  • Being obese or overweight – extra body weight puts more pressure on your internal organs and muscles, thus weakening them.
  • Skin infections – incontinence also can lead to skin infections and sores at areas which are wet or damp.
  • UTIs – with incontinence, there is also an increased risk of contracting repeated urinary tract infections.

When you do consult a doctor for incontinence, he will check your family history, ask some other questions, and carry out some diagnostic tests to narrow down the cause of your incontinence.

Your doctor may also suggest some changes to your routine, such as:

  • Bladder re-training – this means setting a fixed time to go for a pee. The time between the toilet visits can be extended gradually. You can use an alarm clock to remind yourself to go to the toilet during the day or wake yourself up at set times for toilet visits during the night.
  • Protective sheeting – there are special mattress protectors made out of waterproof and breathable fabric that are available on the market.
  • Adult diapers – for adults or seniors who have difficulty moving, wearing adult diapers helps with leaks, in case there is a long queue or insufficient time to make it to the toilet.
  • Avoid liquids just before bedtime – this reduces the amount of urine the body makes at night, giving you a longer uninterrupted sleep period.
  • Medication – there is medication to help with bedwetting, but this should be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Pelvic floor exercises – try doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Other options – your doctor will advise you on bladder augmentation, sacral nerve stimulation or detrusor myectomy.

Incontinence will affect social, work, and home relationships. Consult a doctor early if you do have incontinence; don’t withdraw from the world and suffer in shame.

This article provides a general outlook on incontinence in adults, and is in no way to be taken as medical advice. Our readers are always advised to consult a doctor for proper medical advice, especially if they are on medication for current medical issues.

By Aaron
18th August 19:50 2020

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