Understanding the causes of incontinence
It’s important to reassure your loved one that incontinence is not their fault; usually it’s a consequence or symptom of some other underlying condition. Not understanding this can be distressing for your loved one and may even reduce their quality of life if they feel they have failed in some way. Understanding the medical causes will help alleviate any feelings of personal responsibility.
How the urinary system works
The role of your kidneys (A) is to filter unneeded substances from the blood stream and send them to the bladder (B), a muscular bag that can stretch to hold up to 500ml when full. At half full, nerves tell the brain that it’s time to urinate and urine passes down the urethra (D), which is kept closed by two sphincter muscles (C). The inner sphincter will open when the bladder is full but the outer sphincter muscle can be voluntarily held shut to maintain control over urination. It’s the job of the pelvic floor muscles, which lie beneath the bladder and around the urethra, to keep them working correctly. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men experiences an interruption to this process at some time in their lives.