Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine; in simple terms, to wee when you don't intend to. It is the inability to hold urine in the bladder because voluntary control over the urinary sphincter is either lost or weakened.
Urinary incontinence is a much more common problem than most people realize. In the United Kingdom it is estimated that at any one time at least 3 million people - 5% of the total population - suffer from urinary incontinence. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately 13 million Americans suffer from urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is more common among women than men. 10% to 30% of American women/girls aged 15-64 years are thought to suffer from it, compared to between 1.5% and 5% of men. Over half of all nursing home residents are thought to be affected by urinary incontinence. The Department of Health, UK, estimates that 20% of all women over the age of 40 are affected by urinary incontinence.
The Latin word continentem (nom. continens) means "to hold together", while incontinentem (nom. Incontinens) means "not holding together". The English word incontinent meaning unable to control bowels or bladder was probably first used in 1828.
Fecal incontinence means the inability to control one's bowel movements. This article focuses just on urinary incontinence.