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Incontinence 101: Here’s what you should know

The stigma associated with incontinence is often much worse than the actual physical condition. Some would rather stay home than risk the embarrassment of having an accident in front of friends and family.

Urinary incontinence is a worldwide health problem, affecting around 423 million people ages 20 and older. Women are more than twice as likely than men to suffer bladder weakness, because of childbirth. Female incontinence affects half of American women, according to a federal study. Because the pelvic floor is affected by childbearing, anything that involves the nerves and muscles in the female reproductive system can cause incontinence.

Fortunately, many people can retake control of their lives and reduce the impact of their symptoms with medical help, a few lifestyle changes and the right incontinence supplies.


Tips for Caregivers: Millions of people, paid and unpaid, bear the task of overseeing their loved one’s needs. Here’s a breakdown of the basics you need. Learn more


What is incontinence?

Let’s start with the basics: What is incontinence?


Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the release of urine.


Incontinence is a symptom of something going on in your body. It is not a disease. It’s normal, especially for women who have given birth. Age, for both sexes, may play a factor. Some foods, beverages and medicines stimulate your bladder and increase your volume of urine. They may act as diuretics and can cause temporary incontinence. They include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks and sparkling water
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Chocolate
  • Chili peppers
  • Spicy, sugary or acidic foods, especially citrus fruits
  • Heart and blood pressure medicine, sedatives, and muscle relaxants
  • Large doses of vitamin C

The 5 types of incontinence


Stress incontinence

Anything that inadvertently puts pressure or “stress” on your bladder may cause urine leakage. This includes activities such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or even exercising. This condition is caused when the urethral sphincter or pelvic floor muscles become weakened or damaged by injury, age, or surgery. Often, it’s only a small amount of urine that leaks out.

Pregnancy, vaginal childbirth and even a hysterectomy may cause the pelvic floor to stretch and weaken muscles needed for bladder control. It can also damage bladder nerves and supportive tissue. The likelihood of female incontinence increases with:

  • Mothers who give birth at an older age
  • The greater the number of births
  • The larger the size of the baby
  • The longer the labor lasts.

Men most frequently suffer stress incontinence from damage sustained during prostate surgery or a pelvic fracture. An enlarged prostate can also obstruct the urinary tract, sometimes causing incontinence.

Hard, compacted stool from constipation near the bladder can also cause stress incontinence in both men and women.


Incontinent Population: Age and Sex Chart

Urge Incontinence

Commonly referred to as overactive bladder (OAB), urge incontinence is a type of leakage that follows a strong, sudden and frequent urge to urinate. Both men and women can suffer from this, often with a loss of urine before reaching the bathroom.

The bladder muscle, or detrusor, signals the need to urinate by contracting. An overactive bladder detrusor may involuntarily contract, even when your bladder isn’t full. It’s often unclear what causes this condition, although people tend to develop the problem with age.

It can also develop from nerve damage, particularly with the nerves from the spine to the bladder, as a result from an accident, diabetes or a neurological disease like multiple sclerosis, a tumor or Parkinson’s disease. Anything that interferes with nerve signals involved in bladder control can cause incontinence.

Infections in the urinary tract, bladder or prostate can cause temporary urgency, as can alcohol intoxication. 

Mixed incontinence

Aptly named, this type is a combination of both stress and urge incontinence. Women with incontinence often have both stress and urge incontinence, as do men who have had prostate surgery. It also develops in frail, older men and women.

Overflow incontinence

More commonly experienced by men, overflow incontinence occurs when one is unable to fully empty the bladder and experiences leakage once the bladder is full again. Often the cause is an enlarged prostate, which partially closes off the urethra and blocks the normal flow of urine.

In both men and women, the bladder muscle can also be underactive (opposite of overactive bladder). Because they don’t feel the need to urinate, the bladder can become overfilled and pull the urethra open. This causes urine to leak out. Other causes include tumors, bladder stones, scar tissue, prolapsed uterus, nerve damage and some medications.

Functional incontinence

Even people with properly functioning urinary systems can experience functional incontinence if they can’t get to the bathroom and undress in time. You can’t hold it forever, and if you have arthritis or a disability that makes it hard to move, accidents can happen.


Some medicines also cause you to produce more urine, such as diuretics to treat high blood pressure.

How do I manage incontinence symptoms?


While some products can help you discreetly deal with incontinence, here is how to start managing your incontinence symptoms:   

Talk to your doctor!

Talking to your doctor is the first step towards fully understanding how incontinence affects you, and how to navigate through daily life with this condition.


According to a federal study, only about 25% of women with urinary incontinence symptoms get treatment.For men and women, urinary incontinence can also be a symptom of something that requires immediate attention.


Incontinence should not be looked upon as a disgraceful condition. It can be treated and frequently cured with the right medical help. If you are incontinent, see your doctor about specific treatments that might benefit you.

Take care of the area

Many people don’t realize how important it is to keep areas affected by incontinence dry and clean. By neglecting proper care, those working towards managing incontinence could leave themselves open to discomfort or even infection.

Monitor and limit excessive fluid intake

By employing monitoring and limiting methods for daily fluid consumption, you begin to “retrain” your bladder to adhere to a new voiding schedule. A good rule of thumb for limiting fluid consumption is to avoid taking in fluids after 6 p.m. to decrease nighttime incidents.

Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise

Working on personal health and fitness goals can also do wonders for easing incidents tied to incontinence. By working toward a healthy weight and BMI, the muscles of the pelvic floor will see less stress being put on the liver.

Build up pelvic floor strength.

By strengthening pelvic floors, and corresponding muscles, those afflicted with incontinence can potentially see less unexpected incidents. Many healthcare professionals recommend Kegel exercises to help strengthen these muscles.

Talk to a professional about physical therapy and how doing exercises at home can help build pelvic floor strength.

What incontinence product do I need?

Medical experts recommend using products specifically designed for incontinence. Women may be tempted to try a menstrual pad, but those products are not designed to absorb as large a quantity of fluid. Furthermore, frequent urine contact with skin can cause irritation and itching.


Whatever situation you find yourself in, these incontinence products for men and women will keep you dry and comfortable.

Pads, liners and beltless undergarments

These products are paired with regular underwear for moderate, on-the-go protection. Pads, liners, and beltless incontinence products are often used for light leakage and minimum absorbency.


Protective underwear (pull-on style)

Many individuals prefer protective underwear for the product’s ease and leak protection. Protective underwear provides an alternative to products that are often bulky and plastic-based.


Briefs (with tape tabs)

Similar to the protective underwear, this product aids in leak protection with the added benefit of tabs for removal. This product is great for overnight protection.


Booster pads (for additional absorbency)

This product is used for maximum absorbency. The booster pad is inserted into the protective underwear or brief for extended leak protection; often for overnights and periods of long travel.


 CARE Team recommends: Our CARE team fields questions all day from our customers. Here are their answers to common questions.  Learn more


HDIS has been serving customers since 1986 with the sole purpose of making incontinence products convenient, affordable and less embarrassing to purchase. We do this by delivering high quality bladder control products right to your doorstep in discreet packaging. Get started today at, or contact a friendly and knowledgeable customer care representative at 1-800-269-4663.


Products for men

Incontinence is common for millions of men as they age, but no less embarrassing. There’s a Reassure incontinence product for men for every situation, day and night.


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Products for women

Reassure products for women manage leaks by fitting properly on your body for worry-free protection, especially if you have an active lifestyle and want to feel truly secure.


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