According to the International Continence Society (ICS), incontinence is the “involuntary loss of urine that is a social or hygienic problem and is objectively demonstrable.” Urinary incontinence is most commonly a result of bladder dysfunction, sphincter dysfunction, or a combination of both. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of middle-aged women and 50 percent of older women experience urinary leakage.
The problem is less common in men, but does increase with age. Even so, older men experience severe urinary incontinence at only about half the rate of women. Despite the prevalence of this health problem, it is still a “don’t ask, don’t tell” issue.
“In our study of nurses, less than 50 percent of the women who had incontinence reported it to their doctors,” says Mary Townsend, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
It is a sensitive issue, for sure, but what is the cause of urinary incontinence? Leaks are more common in women who are older, heavier, or smokers, and in those who have had more children, diabetes, or a hysterectomy.