Urinary incontinence is the involuntary passing of urine due to a lack of bladder control. The condition occurs when urinary sphincter control is weak or lost. While it is a common condition, living with urinary incontinence can be embarrassing. The American Urological Association estimates that a quarter of adults suffer from urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is, however, more common in women than men. The risk also increases with age.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
There are different types of urinary incontinence. They include the following:
- Stress Urinary Incontinence: This is when urine leaks due to pressure on the bladder. This can happen when you sneeze, cough, laugh, exercise, or do some heavy lifting.
- Urge Incontinence: This is a condition where you get an intense urge to pass urine. It results in unintentional urination. When you have urge incontinence, you may urinate more than usual. Causes of urge incontinence include infections, such as a urinary tract infection.
- Functional Incontinence: This is due to either a mental or physical condition. With functional incontinence, you feel the urge to pee but don’t make it to the toilet in time. People who have severe arthritis, for instance, may suffer from this.
- Overflow Incontinence: With overflow incontinence, there is a constant dripping of urine. This happens when the bladder does not empty well.
- Total Urine Incontinence: This is where the bladder cannot store urine. As a result, you pass urine more often and have constant leaks.
- Mixed Incontinence: This can be due to a combination of different urine incontinences.
Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence
Symptoms of urinary incontinence may include:
- Involuntary leaking of urine when doing normal activities, like coughing or bending
- A sudden and strong urge to pass urine and feeling that you may not make it to the toilet in time
- Urine leaks that occur without any urge to urinate
- Sudden bedwetting
Diagnosis of Urinary Incontinence
The condition is diagnosed through:
- Bladder Diary: This is where you record your fluid intake and when you urinate. You also record when urine leaks involuntarily.
- Physical Medical Exam: The doctor examines the pelvic floor muscles and vagina in women. For men, a physical exam of the rectum will be done. This determines whether the prostate gland has gotten enlarged.
- Blood Test: This test assesses the functioning of your kidneys to rule out kidney disease.
- Urinalysis Exam: This is a test used to check for abnormalities and infections.
- Post-Void Residual (PVR) Measurement: This test assesses the urine amount left in the bladder after urinating.
- Stress Test: The doctor will ask you to apply pressure on the bladder as they assess how much urine leaks out.
- Ultrasound: The pelvic ultrasound provides a clear image of the pelvis. The exam also allows the doctor to check for abnormalities there.
- Urodynamic Test: This test determines how much pressure the bladder can withstand.
- Cystoscopy: This is a thin tube that has a lens attached to it, where the doctor inserts it into your urethra. It checks for abnormalities in the urinary tract system.
- Cystogram: This is an X-ray of the bladder. It checks for irregularities and abnormalities.
How to Treat Urinary Incontinence
The treatment of urinary incontinence will depend on the type. It also depends on the health, age, and mental state of the patient. Some of the treatment options include:
Complementary Therapies: This includes pelvic muscle exercises and bladder training. They help manage and, even, treat urinary incontinence. Pelvic muscle exercises are also known as Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic muscles.
- Medications: Some medications treat urinary incontinence. These include anticholinergics, topical estrogen, and imipramine (which is an antidepressant).
- Medical Devices and Injections: Medical devices are usually designed for women. They include:
- Urethra Inserts: This insert is placed inside before any activity. It’s taken out when urinating.
- Pessary: This is a rigid ring inserted into the vagina to hold the bladder up and prevent urine leakage.
- Botox/Botulinum Toxin Type A: This is for those who have overactive bladders. It’s injected into the bladder muscle to prevent leaking.
- Radiofrequency Therapy: The lower urinary tract tissue is heated. As it heals, it becomes firmer which improves urinary control.
- Sacral Nerve Stimulator: This is an implant inserted under the skin. It has a wire that connects to the spinal cord nerves and runs to the bladder. The wire releases electrical pulses that stimulate the nerves, improving bladder control.
- Bulking Agents: These are injected into the urethra tissue to keep it closed.
- Surgery: If the above treatment options don’t work, surgery might. Surgical procedures include:
- Sling Procedures: This is where the synthetic mesh is inserted under the bladder neck. The mesh supports the urethra and stops urine leakage.
- Colposuspension: This procedure lifts the neck of the bladder. It’s mostly for people who suffer from stress incontinence.
- Artificial Sphincter Insertion: A valve or artificial sphincter is inserted into the bladder.
How to Manage Urinary Incontinence
If you have urinary incontinence, there are things you can do to help manage the condition like:
- Get in the habit of emptying your bladder often, rather than waiting until you feel the urge to urinate
- Make sure to empty your bladder before any kind of physical activity
- Avoid moving heavy things on your own since this will only aggravate the condition
- Do Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
- Avoid drinking a lot of fluids(especially caffeine) before any physical activity
- Wear pads or any other product designed to absorb leaked urine
- Maintain a healthy weight by exercising and eating healthy foods
- How can one prevent urinary incontinence? Kegel exercises, bladder training, and weight loss can help prevent incontinence. Additional ways include quitting smoking and treating constipation when it occurs.
- Should you drink fewer fluids if you have urinary incontinence? This is a common misconception. Still take in enough fluids to stay healthy. Alcohol and caffeine, however, can worsen urinary incontinence.
- Does childbirth cause incontinence? Problems during labor and childbirth can leave the pelvic floor muscles weak. The resulting bladder control problems, however, clear once the muscles have healed.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!