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After a stroke, a condition called incontinence may develop for some people. This happens when the muscles that help control bladder and bowels are weakened, thus making it likely to have an accident.

Unconscious leaking is the most common condition but there are many different types of bladder and bowel control problems. Loss of urinary continence is fairly common immediately after a stroke and often results from a combination of sensory and motor deficits. Stroke survivors may lose the ability to sense the need to urinate or the ability to control bladder muscles. Some may lack enough mobility to reach a toilet in time. Loss of bowel control or constipation also may occur. Permanent incontinence after a stroke is uncommon, but even a temporary loss of bowel or bladder control can be emotionally difficult for stroke survivors.

Individualized strategies for overcoming incontinence can be determined by a healthcare professional conducting an evaluation.

Bladder and Bowel Training

Bladder and bowel training can permanently improve incontinence and help manage chronic symptoms. Bladder and bowel training programs are usually customized to individual needs.

bullet Changes in diet - some foods and liquids may affect bladder and bowel incontinence.
bullet Greater need to urinate after drinking coffee or alcohol.
bullet Spicy foods may affect bladder.
bullet Monitor intake - changing the timing, amounts, and types of liquids can help in control of urinary incontinence.
bullet Limiting the amount of drink before bedtime may help.
bullet Some foods may affect bowel control.
bullet Clothing selection - wear clothing that is easier to get off
bullet Home modifications - have a urinal or commode easily that is accessible.

Managing Incontinence

bullet Wear disposable undergarments
bullet Place a bedside commode next to the bed
bullet Place a bed pad over the bed sheet
bullet Place a blue pad underneath the bed pad
bullet Place a blue pad on furniture seats
bullet Have a set of clean clothes in all bathrooms
bullet Place blue pads on car seats
bullet When travelling, plan travel time for frequent bathroom stops
bullet Bring extra clothes for long shopping trips
bullet Have a set of clothes in the car for accidents
bullet Keep hand wipes and liquid sanitizer in the house and car

If your loved one has incontinence, let them know that this is a very common side-effect of stroke.  Tell them that most stroke survivors initially have this side-effect after having one.  You can help by letting that person know you understand that his or her accidents are unavoidable and are not something they can control.  Let them know what the tips are for managing this problem.  Talk to their doctor about it. 

In many cases, incontinence is overcome in a relatively short period after a stroke. This can happen as a natural part of the recovery process or as a result of treatment or therapy.

Note: If someone you love has incontinence, they may be embarrassed by his or her condition and are reluctant to talk about it. 

Stroke Warning Signs

bullet Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body   
bullet Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding   
bullet Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes   
bullet Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination   
bullet Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

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