Urinary incontinence, or the unintentional release of urine from the bladder, is usually associated with infants and older adults. However, many teens and young adults also struggle with bladder control issues. For these individuals, urinary incontinence is a challenging but usually manageable condition.
While urinary incontinence may be uncommon in young adults, frequent or excessive flow may be related to other health conditions. Therefore, if you or a loved one is experiencing chronic urinary incontinence, talk to a doctor as soon as possible to discuss potential causes and treatment options.
An active young couple with shirts tied around their waists. Even individuals in their teens and 20s can experience temporary or chronic bladder control issues.
How Common Is Young Adult Urinary Incontinence?
It can be challenging to pinpoint precisely how many young adults suffer from this condition because not every medical professional defines or categorizes urinary incontinence the same way.
For example, one researcher may include specific individuals in their numbers that another study would not. In addition, many young people with incontinence are too embarrassed to admit their issue to anyone else, preferring to manage it independently.
Urinary incontinence is much more common in young women than in young men, with a prevalence as high as 20 to 30% in some studies. However, only around 4 to 8% of young women report cases severe enough to cause distress.
Incontinence Risk Factors for Young People
In addition to gender, several other risk factors make urinary incontinence more common for some people than for others. For instance, you may be at greater risk if you:
- Have a bladder infection: An infection in your bladder or elsewhere in your urinary tract causes inflammation, irritation, and a strong, frequent urge to urinate.
- Suffer from a medical condition that causes nerve damage: Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, or a stroke can all affect your nervous system. If the signals from your brain to your bladder and abdomen muscles are blocked, they will be less able to control your urination.
- Participate in certain high-impact sports: The repetitive, jarring movements of gymnasts, runners, and other athletes can weaken the bladder-supporting muscles and connective tissues that make up the pelvic floor.
- Have a genetic predisposition to weak pelvic muscles: Incontinence sometimes runs in families because of a tendency to have a more vulnerable pelvic floor.
- Are pregnant or have had a baby: A growing fetus pressing on your bladder will make you feel a more frequent urge to go to the bathroom. Additionally, pregnancy and delivery also stretch and weaken your pelvic floor.
- Have undergone a hysterectomy: The position of a woman’s bladder can shift, and her pelvic tissues may be damaged when her uterus is removed.
- Smoke: The chronic cough developed by smokers places significant strain on their pelvic muscles, leading to muscle weakness and stress incontinence.
- Are overweight: Excessive weight, especially in the abdominal area, can press on a person’s bladder and possibly cause tissue damage.
Treating Incontinence in Young Adults
Urinary incontinence tends to be milder and more treatable for most otherwise-healthy young adults than for older individuals. This is partly because a younger person’s tissues and muscles are stronger, more resilient, and extra responsive to conditioning.
Your incontinence treatment will depend on what is prompting your bladder control difficulties, but some remedies include:
Treating the Root Cause
The underlying cause of incontinence in young people is sometimes a temporary condition, with the bladder control trouble only lasting as long as the underlying issue.
For example, if you have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection, your doctor will probably focus first on clearing up that problem. If a prolapsed bladder after a hysterectomy is causing your incontinence, corrective surgery may be able to tackle both issues.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
A weak pelvic floor can be strengthened and conditioned with exercises to build up the muscles around your bladder and urethra. Your doctor may recommend the following:
- Kegel exercises to contract and release these muscles
- Breathing deeply from your diaphragm
Extra Support During Strenuous Activity
Female athletes desiring to continue in their sport may be unable to cut back on the activities causing their incontinence. Instead, they can wear a soft, insertable device called a pessary whenever needed for extra support and to guard against pelvic prolapse.
Genetic predisposition and other incontinence risk factors may be outside your control. While you can eliminate others through lifestyle changes. For example, you may be able to relieve your incontinence by:
- Quitting tobacco use.
- Losing weight.
- Pacing your liquid intake and avoiding diuretics like caffeine and chocolate.
Using Absorbent Pads or Undergarments
Although urinary incontinence is often treatable in young adults, it is not always curable. Fortunately, advances in incontinence products make managing your bladder issues easier and more discreet than ever.
Worn under your clothes, absorbent pads or disposable underwear provide the protection and freedom you need to live an active, full life without drawing unwanted attention to your condition.
Products Made for Young Adults With Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence may be uncommon in young adults; nevertheless, it is a highly treatable and manageable condition. With quality products designed and produced by Made for Living, incontinence doesn't have to hold you back or rob you of your self-confidence.
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