Urinary incontinence (UI) is an involuntary loss of urine. It can occur with physical stress or exercise or with a sudden urge to urinate that cannot be deferred. The latter often results is the inability to hold urine until one can reach a restroom. According to the National Association for Continence, approximately 25 million adult Americans experience temporary or chronic urinary incontinence. UI can strike at any age. Women over age 50 are the most likely to develop UI. Urinary incontinence may be a temporary condition, resulting from an underlying medical condition. It can range from the discomfort of slight losses of urine to severe, frequent wetting.
Incontinence is not an inevitable result of aging but is particularly common in older people. It is often caused by specific changes in body function that may result from diseases, use of medications, and/or the onset of an illness. Sometimes it is the first and only symptom of a urinary tract infection. Women are most likely to develop incontinence either during pregnancy and childbirth or after the hormonal changes of menopause, because of weakened pelvic muscles.
Involuntary leakage of urine with physical effort or exertion, for example with exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or other body movements that put pressure on the bladder. In more severe cases, simply changing position from sitting to standing can cause stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is associated with, but not limited to pregnancy and vaginal delivery (See section on childbirth and incontinence)