What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, is a common condition. Both men and women may suffer from urinary incontinence, however, the condition is more often seen among women. Cases may range in severity from occasional leakage to full loss of urinary control. Thankfully, once the underlying cause of incontinence is identified, the condition is most often treatable.
What are the Types of Urinary Incontinence?
There are three main types of urinary incontinence, these include:
- Stress incontinence: The loss of urine when a physical activity, such as sneezing, coughing, lifting or running, applies pressure on the bladder. This type of incontinence can be caused by damage or weakness of the urinary sphincter or the loss of integrity of the ligaments holding the bladder.
- Urge incontinence: The rapid onset of the urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. This condition often develops quickly but can be managed by treatment therapies similar to those used for overactive bladder (OAB).
- Overflow incontinence: A condition that results in the loss of urine due to an overly full bladder. This buildup of urine results from a person’s inability to empty their bladder, causing it to overflow. In many cases, people suffering from this type of incontinence continuously lose urine due to having lost the sensation that their bladder is full.
Why Does Urinary Incontinence Happen?
There are several different factors that may contribute to urinary incontinence, including everyday habits and underlying physical or medical conditions. Some causes may include:
- Weak bladder muscles
- Overactive bladder muscles
- Nerve damage
What are the Risk Factors for Urinary Incontinence?
Factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing urinary incontinence include:
- Age: The muscles in the bladder and urethra may weaken overtime with aging, causing stress incontinence.
- Obesity: Extra weight places more pressure on the bladder and surrounding muscles, resulting in stress incontinence.
- Smoking: Tobacco use may increase risk.
- Family history: Incontinence can be inherited, especially urge incontinence.
- Certain neurological conditions: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and diabetes may increase risk.
What are the Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence?
Treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the type of incontinence, its severity and the underlying cause. In some cases, a combination of different treatment methods may be necessary. Some common treatment options for urinary incontinence include:
- Kegel or pelvic floor exercises: These work to strengthen both the pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter. These exercises are commonly used to treat those with stress incontinence.
- Medications: Anticholinergics are a popular class of medications that work to inhibit involuntary actions, such as incontinence by blocking certain signals in the brain.
- Bladder training: This may help patients regain control of their bladder.
- Medical devices: There are several devices, such as urethral inserts, that are worn throughout the day and removed when needed to urinate.
- Surgery: Surgical options may be considered when other conservative treatment options have been exhausted. Examples include sling procedures and the insertion of an artificial sphincter.
If you are suffering from urinary incontinence, it’s important for you to know that you are not alone and it is a common condition. If you’re considering treatment, please consider Dr. Howard Tay, FACS, as your board- certified urologist. Dr. Tay has been diagnosing and treating urological conditions, such as urinary incontinence for nearly 25 years. Contact his office to schedule an appointment at (602) 337-8500.