Do you remember the first time your parents spoke to you about elderly diapers? That time in school when your teachers sat you down and spoke about diapers for old age? Or, better still, that time when you and your friends discussed urine incontinence over dinner and drinks?
None of this happened, isn’t it? You think I’ve lost my mind. Only, I haven’t.
In India, 50 million people suffer from urine incontinence. That’s 50 million people who remain shackled to their bed and bathrooms. 50 million sufferers of urine incontinence who remain trapped at home. While elderly diapers provide some respite and mobility, urine incontinence is hardly a topic for conversation.
And while one can normalise a conversation that is going wrong, how does one normalise a conversation that doesn’t even exist?
As a company that manufactures elderly diapers, we at Friends consistently attempt to begin a conversation around urine incontinence. A large part of that is through information.
Urine incontinence refers to a condition where the body is unable to control the passage of urine resulting in random or sudden leaks. If you are dealing with sudden strong urges to pee, or the leakage of some urine when you laugh, sneeze, cough or exercise—you probably are facing urine incontinence. For most people, urine incontinence may be a product of old age, but the condition can show up in younger people in their mid-20s as well.
Types of Urine Incontinence
The various types of urine incontinence are:
- Stress incontinence – This is a type of incontinence in which the bladder muscles become weak due to obesity or childbirth. Activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy exert pressure on the bladder resulting in small amounts of urine being squeezed out.
- Urge incontinence – This is also known as Overactive Bladder. This type of urine incontinence can be caused both by a minor infection or by nerve damage in the bladder tissue. As a result, the brain receives mixed signals about peeing resulting in sudden, intense urges to urinate followed by the involuntary loss of urine. Those suffering from urge incontinence may need to urinate often, especially at night.
- Overflow incontinence – In this type of incontinence, urine constantly dribbles through the urethra. This is caused either by a blockage or due to a weakening of muscles due to which the bladder fails to empty completely.
- Functional incontinence –This type of urine incontinence is said to be caused if a physical or mental impairment that keeps the patient from making it to the toilet in time. This may be caused by paralysis, dementia, arthritis, or other such conditions.
Being unable to pass urine willfully is classified as urine incontinence.
Do you feel small amounts of urine escaping every time you laugh or exercise? Do you find that your bladder does not ever feel empty? Do you feel a strange ache or pain every time you pee? Do you feel a consistent urge to void? You may be suffering from urine incontinence.
When should you visit a doctor?
Sometimes, urine can be passed accidentally due to the consumption of diuretics such as alcohol, caffeine or certain aerated drinks. However, if you detect one of the following more than twice you must immediately visit a doctor:
- Accidental leakage of urine during everyday activities such as coughing, laughing, lifting, bending or exercising
- Feeing a sudden strong urge to urinate right away
- Leaking urine suddenly without any warning or build up of urge
- Being unable to (physically) reach a toilet in time
- Being unable to reach a toilet in time as the urge comes suddenly with little or no warning
- Repeated bedwetting at night
Very often urine incontinence is simply a result of the weakening of muscles in the pelvic region due to old age. While surgical interventions are possible, your doctor may simply recommend the use of a diaper for old age.
Diapers for old age may be tape style or pant style. Tape style elderly diapers can be taped on one side and adjusted at will. Pant style elderly diapers or ‘pull up pants’, on the other hand, can simply be slid on and are easier to handle without caregivers.
Today, diapers for old age are robust, highly absorbent, engineered for comfort and can be worn for several hours without discomfort. Brands like ours have also worked towards making the elderly diaper as sleek as possible. This helps in wearing them discreetly under pants or dresses while going out to meet family or friends. Elderly diapers have also been adapted to be of a material that does not rustle or crunch so as to preserve dignity and keep things discreet.
Causes of urine incontinence:
Urine incontinence may be caused by easily treatable medical conditions such as a UTI or constipation. UTIs can irritate your bladder causing strong urges to urinate. Meanwhile, hard stool in your rectum can cause nerves near your bladder to be overstimulated resulting in frequent urination.
Urine incontinence can also be caused due to:
- Pregnancy and childbirth – Pregnancy comes with hormonal changes and the growth of a being inside one’s uterus. These can result in pressure being exerted on organs inside the stomach and the vaginal canal. This can result in damage to nerves, supportive tissue, bladder muscles and the pelvic floor.
- Menopause – The secretion of oestrogen, a hormone that helps keep the lining of the urethra and bladder healthy, reduces in quantity post-menopause. As a result, uncontrolled bladder contractions become more frequent.
- Hysterectomies – In women, several muscles and ligaments in the pelvic region hold up the bladder and uterus. Any surgery that involves the removal of the reproductive system, including the uterus can cause a loosening or weakening of these muscles, or damage them – leading to urine incontinence.
- Enlarged prostrate – Incontinence in older men may stem from an enlarged prostate. Urge incontinence is also often associated with prostate cancer. More commonly, though, it is a side effect of the treatment for prostate cancer.
- Obstruction – Functional incontinence can be caused by an obstruction, such as a tumour somewhere in the urinary tract. Urinary stones in the kidney or the bladder can also cause urine incontinence
- Age – ageing can weaken bladder muscles or decrease its capacity to store urine. Involuntary bladder contractions also become more common with age.
It is very important to understand that urine incontinence is a very normal process—often a by-product of surgery or ageing. Unless the stigma around the condition is addressed, those suffering from incontinence shall not feel empowered enough to seek help. It is only when sufferers of urine incontinence seek help and speak about what is ailing them that they can regain the best part of their lives.