By the year 2020, the sale of adult diapers nationwide will exceed the sale of baby diapers. Unless you want to buy stock in a growth industry, you probably didn’t care to know that statistic. On the other hand, if you wear adult diapers, it’s good to know you’re not alone.

One out of three women share this common healthcare concern: the uncontrolled leakage of urine – a condition called urinary incontinence.  More than 13 million people in the United States, young and old, experience it at some point in their lives. This condition is twice as common in women as in men and people of all ages can be affected. Studies show 70 percent of women in nursing homes have some degree of urinary incontinence.

The medical specialty of urogynecology includes the diagnosis and treatment of the five major types of urinary incontinence. This normal progressive problem is treatable, and successful treatment is life-changing for so many individuals.

Leakage is often brought on by laughing, coughing or sneezing, and when it happens, it limits lifestyles and relationships because of the embarrassment that accompanies odor and wetness. Typically the symptoms worsen over time. Pregnancy, childbirth, hormonal changes, prior surgery or obesity can cause the weakening of the pelvic muscles and tissues, which lead to stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is one of the two most common forms of incontinence and can be successfully treated.

The second most common form of urinary incontinence is urge incontinence, which includes the leakage of urine for no apparent reason. The bladder, a balloon-like organ which holds urine, suddenly contracts, forcing urine to leak out. Urge incontinence can often be treated with medication and physical therapy to strengthen the sphincter muscles.

The other three forms are functional incontinence, overflow incontinence and mixed incontinence. Functional incontinence occurs most frequently in persons unable to reach a toilet in time. Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder remains full at all times. The balloon-like organ can only stretch so far and small increases in urine volume will force the bladder to overflow. Overflow incontinence is more frequent in men than in women.

Mixed incontinence is diagnosed when more than one cause is found.  Urinary incontinence always results from an underlying medical condition. Therefore it is important to diagnose the cause of the problem to assure the correct treatment. The first step in getting treatment for incontinence is talking with your doctor. Urinary incontinence is a very common and treatable condition that shouldn’t interfere with your quality of life.

Marilyn Ranson is a public relations specialist with NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield, which is a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.