Urinary incontinence is the regular or occasional loss of bladder control and is common in women.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
Overflow incontinence is when the bladder does not fully empty. As a result, urine is lost in small, steady amounts. Inability to empty the bladder may be caused by bladder damage or a blocked urethra.
Stress urinary incontinence refers to the loss of urine when pressure is exerted on the bladder, for example when coughing, sneezing, running, lifting, etc. This may be due to weakened muscles or tissues from pregnancy, childbirth or menopause.
Urge incontinence is characterized by a strong need to urinate followed by uncontrolled urination. The bladder muscles involuntarily contract, resulting in urine loss. Known causes include urinary tract infection, stroke, and bladder irritants. If no known cause is determined, it is referred to as overactive bladder.
Mixed incontinence includes a combination of the above.
Causes of Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence may be a temporary or regular issue and can be caused by:
- Alcohol and/or caffeine
- Urinary tract infection
- Abnormal growths, such as polyps
- Weight gain
- Damaged or weak pelvic muscles
- Bladder stones or cancer
- Neurological disorder
Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence
To determine the cause of urinary incontinence the doctor may ask you to maintain a bladder diary to track liquids and episodes of incontinence. In addition, a pelvic exam may be used to look for related conditions that may cause urinary incontinence.
If additional information is required, specialized tests may be recommended.
Treating Urinary Incontinence
Some simple lifestyle changes and exercises can help reduce urinary incontinence:
- Lose weight
- Reduce fluid intake and avoid caffeine
- Stop smoking
- Bladder retraining
- Kegel exercises
Other treatment options for urinary incontinence include:
- Physical therapy
- Pessaries – pelvic support devices inserted into the vagina
- Medications that help control muscle contractions
- Bulking agents to strengthen the urethra