Why is Incontinence Common After a Stroke?

50 percent of patients experience incontinence after a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke because the muscles that help control sphincters (urine and stool) are weakened, and also due to physical and mental skills being negatively impacted.

According to studies, half of post-stroke patients will suffer from some level of incontinence (bladder or bowel incontinence) or both. Urinary incontinence is more common than fecal incontinence among CVA survivors.

For most patients that overcome a stroke, incontinence will be a temporary condition that will last as long as it take the brain injury to heal. During a stroke, the brain suffers damage due to the abrupt interruption of blood supply.

To understand why incontinence is common after stroke, here are some reasons:

➢ Compromised physical and mental skills. Walking and communication difficulties.

The person needs help to go to the toilet or may not always be able to get there in time. Also, they can experience difficulties in removing their clothing and sometimes they even are not able to ask for help to go to the toilet when needed.

➢     Less mobility. Not being able to move may lead to an involuntary release of urine due to an overfilled urinary bladder. It also makes the person more prone to constipation (fewer bowel movements) as a consequence of less food and beverage intake (diet after a stroke should be rigorous).

➢   Not being entirely conscious nor aware of where they are and reflex incontinence. These conditions may cause accidents without warning or previous urge as a result of damaged nerves that help control sphincters.


➢   Some after stroke prescribed medicines can affect bladder and bowel control, like those specified to help lower blood pressure (diuretics), which can directly affect bladder control. 


➢    Diurnal and nocturnal enuresis. Involuntary urination during day and night. 

➢    Fecal or bowel incontinence. The unexpected passing of fecal material. Not being able to control bowel movements leads to stool leakage.

Most stroke survivors’ incontinence can be treated and cured, all they need is a proper medical evaluation to know the specific treatment for the severity and cause of their condition. According to studies, only 15 percent of stroke patients continue with incontinence after a year removed from their stroke trauma. Here are some exercises, techniques, treatments and simple life changes that will help stroke/incontinence patients:


Pelvic floor muscle exercise – Kegels Exercise

This exercise makes muscles that support the bladder and bowel stronger, helping improve, control and solve leakage.  Like any other body muscle, the more you use them, the stronger they will be. That is why this specific exercise is crucial after a stroke, to recover bladder and bowel proper functionality and movement.

Seek a specialists’ advice. A therapist or physiotherapist can help you with daily life, speech or mobility issues if needed.       

A healthy diet.  After a stroke, patients need to follow a balanced diet by eating more vegetables and fruits to help regulate their bowel movements. Eat foods rich in fiber that will help avoid, prevent and end constipation. Drink plenty of water (6 to 8 glasses a day are recommended); this will help prevent bladder irritation or infections. It may seem as if more water would lead to uncontrolled urination, but it is entirely the opposite in this case because plenty of water cleans the bladder and will prevent concentrated urine and this will help the bladder adapt to the correct volume of fluids.

Eat and drink at regular times, start a routine and that way you will help retrain your bladder and bowel. Drink enough liquid during the day but stop them two hours before bedtime to avoid overnight accidents.

Bladder and bowel routines. Incontinence patients need to restart training their brain, adopting healthy bladder and bowel routines.

When you feel the need to go to the bathroom, hold on one minute before sitting down. Then gradually increase the waiting time (holding your bladder or bowel movements as needed) until you feel you can easily control it and feel more confident. Regular visits to the toilet are also recommended. These routines will help you retrain your bladder and bowels to avoid accidents.

Use the Biofeedback technique. This is a great too that helps train control of body functions.

Use Catheters to help relieve a full bladder when suffering from total bladder incontinence.


Incontinence Protection Products

There is a wide variety of products that will help you live a discrete and conformable life while dealing with incontinence.

The following are products to help you stay dry and comfortable: pads and pull-ups with absorbent hydrophobic protection, standard and washable bed mattresses and furniture protectors and many other new products that will help with your daily needs.

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