Urinary incontinence or the accidental release of urine is a fairly common problem among women (52). The most common type is stress incontinence, which occurs when pressure is put on the bladder by coughing, laughing, sneezing, or physical activity. It occurs when the pelvic floor muscles no longer support the bladder properly. The resulting drop in the bladder can cause it to push against the vagina and prevent the tightening of the muscles that ordinarily close off the urethra. Stress incontinence can be caused by childbirth, weight gain, or other conditions that stretch the pelvic floor muscles.
Urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder, is an urgent sensation to urinate even when the bladder may not be full. In many cases, the cause of urge incontinence is unknown. However, it can be caused by emotional stress, irritation of the bladder, or neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease or stroke. Some women suffer from a combination of stress and urge incontinence.
Typically, urinary incontinence does not cause major health problems but it can be embarrassing and can affect a woman's self-esteem and confidence. There are a range of products available to control incontinence, including adjustable briefs (a diaper-style garment), pull-up briefs or undergarments, and pads held in place with belts or adhesive strips. These products have benefited greatly from the development of super absorbent materials such as the types used in menstrual pads and baby diapers. Irritation and rashes are important potential health effects that can occur with extended use of these products, especially in individuals who are bedridden. However, advances in materials and technology have reduced the likelihood of these effects.
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