Incontinence is the medical term for not having voluntary control over holding in stool or urine. The term is usually used to refer to urinary incontinence, where bladder control is impaired. There are different types of incontinence: Involuntary loss of urine when someone coughs or sneezes is called stress incontinence. This is mostly caused by a weak bladder outlet, as can happen in women who have weak pelvic floor muscles, for example. Neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or dementia, but also an enlarged prostate gland in men, may cause what is called urge incontinence: this is where only small amounts of urine can be stored in the bladder before the urge to urinate is felt. Damage to the spinal cord, for example in people with paraplegia, affects the bladder’s sphincter muscle directly. This is referred to as reflex incontinence.

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