TENA are the worldwide leader in the management of incontinence boasting more than 50 years’ experience in the field. They provide products and services for individuals and healthcare services throughout 90 countries. TENA are committed to developing products and services that will minimise the impact of incontinence on everyday lives.
TENA is dedicated to the idea that incontinence shouldn’t stop people from leading a full and happy life.
What is bladder weakness?
Bladder weakness (also known as urinary incontinence) more than six million women in the UK1. In fact, one in three women experience bladder weakness at some point in their lives2.
Bladder weakness occurs when the bladder leaks involuntarily. The bladder can empty completely or just leak small quantities of urine at certain times.
As well as being surprisingly common, incontinence can be irrespective of age or overall health, and can often happen to people in the prime of their lives.
Muscles and nerves must work together to hold urine in the bladder and then release it at the right time. If the bladder muscle (detrusor) suddenly contracts or the sphincter muscles are not strong enough to hold back urine, bladder weakness will occur. The bladder, urethra and sphincter will not get the support they need, and bladder weakness can occur.
Bladder weakness is a subject which tends to have a stigma attached to it, which may cause people to be embarrassed and not get help on how to manage it. This means that many people do not receive the support and advice that could signiﬁcantly improve their lives.
There are two main types of bladder weakness:
The causes of bladder weakness?
Bladder weakness is twice as common in women as it is in men3; although, both can develop bladder weakness at any age. It can be caused by issues such as obesity, neurological conditions, certain medications or any disease, condition or injury that damages nerves (e.g. neurological injury, long-term diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis).
During pregnancy, women may experience stress incontinence due to an increased pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor, or urge incontinence due to the bladder muscles contracting too early. In addition, the hormone relaxin softens the pelvic floor muscles to prepare for the baby’s birth, which can also contribute.
In women, the hormone oestrogen helps to keep the bladder and urethra healthy. During and following the menopause, the level of oestrogen significantly reduces, which can cause the pelvic floor muscles to weaken, resulting in bladder weakness in the form of stress incontinence, urge incontinence and/or nocturia.
Obesity puts added pressure on the stomach, which then increases pressure on the bladder and urethra. The pelvic floor muscles can’t cope with this extra pressure and are subsequently unable to prevent urine flowing from the bladder. Obese individuals may also experience urine leakage when they sneeze, cough, laugh or have sex.
Prostate problems are the most common cause of urine leakage in men. The prostate surrounds the urethra and can enlarge as a man ages and cause BPH. The prostate may cause reduced urine flow in men as the urethra is ‘closed off’ due to the enlarged prostate wrapping around it. If surgical removal of the prostate is required during treatment for BPH or prostate cancer, it can cause damage to the sphincter muscle that keeps the bladder closed and cause stress incontinence.
The need to pass urine during the night is called nocturia and there are several possible causes. When we age, less anti-diuretic hormone is produced, which is needed to help the body retain fluid at night. Bladder infections can also cause nocturia, as well as medical conditions such as heart problems or diabetes. Other possible causes include drinking too much fluid - especially before bed or sleep-related problems.
Things you can do to help:
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- Davies, S.C. Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, 2014, The Health of the 51%: Women. Department of Health (2015). Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/484 383/cmo-report-2014.pdf [Accessed July 2016].
- TENA Lady survey of 2,000 women in the UK conducted by OnePoll, July 2015.
- Mammachan, R et al., Urinary incontinence, GM 2010 147-152. Available at: https://www.gmjournal.co.uk/uploadedfiles/redbox/pavilion_content/our_content/social_care_and_health/gm_arc hive/2010/march/march2010p147.pdf [Accessed July 2016].