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What is Transient (Temporary) Incontinence?

What is Transient (Temporary) Incontinence?

Transient incontinence, sometimes referred to as temporary incontinence, is a type of incontinence that is caused by an underlying condition.  Once that particular condition improves or subsides so does the related incontinence. This affects roughly one-third (⅓) of the population that lives at home and more than 50% of patients in hospitals or long term care facilities.

Pretty much any illness or condition can cause some incontinence issues, especially in someone who has had incontinence symptoms in the past. Healthcare workers use the acronym DIAPPERS to help outline the usual culprits that cause transient incontinence.

  • DeliriumAny disorder of the brain causing the patient difficulty in knowing when they need to go to the  restroom or how to get there. This can include age related dementia, stroke, developmental delay and brain injury.
  • Infection - Urinary tract or kidney infections can cause extra pressure and irritation to the bladder making it difficult to hold back urine.  An infection of the gastrointestinal tract causing diarrhea may lead to fecal incontinence.
  • Atrophy - When Estrogen levels are low the tissues of the vagina and urethra become thin and irritated.  Atrophic Vaginitis and/or Urethritis is most common in women who have experienced menopause or had a removal of the uterus and/or ovaries.
  • Pharmacological - Many medications have been linked to symptoms of transient urinary incontinence from their side effects.  Medications that are diuretics cause you to urinate frequently, sleeping pills or pills that help with mood (anti-anxiety or anti-depressants) can make it difficult to make it to the toilet in time because of the sleepiness or wooziness they can cause.  Another culprit is blood pressure pills because they can have an effect on the muscles in the bladder, as well as diuretic properties.  
  • Psychological - Aside from the medications used to treat these two conditions causing side effects, depression and/or anxiety themselves can cause transient incontinence symptoms.  Sometimes patients who are depressed can lack the motivation to visit the toilet when they should, leading to increased stress on the bladder and infections. Also, lower levels of certain chemicals (such as serotonin) in the nervous system can cause the bladder to be overactive and increase the frequency of urination (however, this has not yet been proven in humans).
  • Excess Urine OutputThere are certain conditions of the Endocrine system that cause the body to produce more urine.  One of the most common is diabetes, especially if it is not controlled. When the sugar levels in the blood are elevated, the body tries to flush the sugars out by creating excess urine.  Disorders of the kidneys themselves, including kidney stones, will also lead to altered production of urine.
  • Restricted MobilityIndividuals that have trouble getting to the toilet in time (or at all) are at increased risk of transient incontinence until their mobility increases.  Pain is a huge factor in mobility, because when we hurt, we tend to move slower. This can happen in any age group since it can be related to injuries, surgeries, childbirth as well as arthritis.
  • Stool Impact - The muscles that control both urination and defecation are closely related and are affected simultaneously at times.  When you are unable to pass your stools easily this causes the muscles in the area to weaken or become strained.

What does transient incontinence feel like?

Transient incontinence may come on either suddenly or develop over time and are directly related to the underlying condition that is causing it.  Symptoms are very similar to other types of incontinencee (such as urge incontinence or stress incontinence) and can include:

  • Frequent and/or increased urge to urinate.
  • Burning during urination.
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvic or flank area.
  • Involuntary loss of urine when coughing, sneezing, or exerting yourself physically.
  • Constant dribbling of urine with or without the urge to urinate.

How do you treat transient incontinence?

The great news when it comes to transient incontinence is that often, when the underlying condition that is causing it is treated, the symptoms improve or even disappear. 

Talk to your doctor about which of the above factors you believe is contributing to your symptoms (DIAPPERS) so they can work to develop a treatment plan.  

Some common resolutions are:

  • Changing your current medications 
  • Management of your pain
  • Measures to control your blood sugar
  • Constipation management
  • Bladder training and exercises

What underwear should you use to manage transient incontinence?

There are a wide variety of products that help you to manage your incontinence symptoms and maintain an active lifestyle. 

Choosing which product is right for you depends on:

  • The volume of leakage you experience.
  • The size/shape of your body.
  • Your lifestyle.
  • The type of incontinence you experience (urinary or fecal).

The most common incontinence aids are:

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