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About Urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence - a loss of bladder control - is a common condition affecting people of all ages and genders. Individuals who deal with incontinence may occasionally experience urine leakage or intense feelings of needing to urinate without the time to get to a restroom.
Urinary incontinence is commonly categorized into 4 primary types - which cause various symptoms.
- Urge Incontinence: Urge incontinence is characterized as a sudden and intense need to urinate. You may not be able to get to the restroom in time and may end up involuntarily leaking urine. Urge incontinence may also result in a more frequent need to urinate. Certain conditions, such as an infection or neurological condition may contribute to, or cause, urge incontinence.
- Stress Incontinence: Stress incontinence is characterized as urine leakage after pressure is exerted upon the bladder. This leakage frequently occurs as individuals laugh, sneeze, cough, jump, or lift heavy objects.
- Overflow incontinence: When your bladder doesn’t completely empty during urination, it may overflow. This can lead to frequent drips of urine, even when you don’t feel that you have to use the restroom.
- Mixed incontinence: This type of incontinence is characterized by symptoms of several different kinds of incontinence. Commonly, individuals with mixed incontinence experience the symptoms of urge and stress incontinence at various times.
Urinary incontinence in and of itself doesn’t cause symptoms outside of the potentially embarrassing loss of bladder control. It may, however, signify an underlying condition. Many individuals experience incontinence as a result of alcohol or caffeine intake, as well as foods and medications that stimulate the bladder.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the added weight of the uterus can put extra pressure on the bladder and lead to symptoms of stress incontinence.
- Aging: The bladder decreases in size as your age increases. This can lead to symptoms of mixed incontinence.
- Pelvic floor disorders: Weak pelvic floor muscles can impair organ function, including that of the bladder. This can lead to symptoms of stress or urge incontinence.
- Neurological disorders: Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and other neurological conditions can impair nerve signals that assist with bladder control. These conditions may result in involuntary urine leakage.
- Menopause: After a woman’s body undergoes the hormone changes during menopause, it may produce less estrogen (which helps manage bladder health). Along with weakening pelvic floor muscles associated with aging, menopause may result in various symptoms of urinary incontinence.
- Prostate Conditions: An enlarged prostate caused by benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) or prostate cancer may cause symptoms of stress or urge incontinence. Treatment for prostate cancer may also cause symptoms of incontinence.
Incontinence can negatively impact your quality of life. If you are experiencing an unexplained loss of bladder control, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. They may provide treatment or screen you for underlying health conditions causing these side effects.
Below is a list of common treatment options for urinary incontinence. During your appointment, discuss these with your doctor to determine the right treatment plan for you.
Medications prescribed to treat incontinence may help stabilize bladder contractions or relax the bladder to allow it to fully empty. Women managing menopause may be given hormone replacement supplements to help strengthen the tissue in the urethra and vaginal tissue - minimizing symptoms of incontinence.
- Anticholinergics: Anticholinergics can help bladder control and reduce symptoms of urge incontinence. Examples of anticholinergics include oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), tolterodine (Detrol), darifenacin (Enablex), fesoterodine (Toviaz), trospium (Sanctura), and solifenacin (Vesicare).
- Mirabegron (Myrbetriq): Mirebegron helps relax the bladder - allowing it to completely empty easier - and increases the amount of urine your bladder can hold. This may prevent symptoms of urge incontinence and overflow incontinence.
- Blood pressure medication: Also known as alpha-blockers, this type of blood pressure medication can help relax muscle fibers around the bladder and prostate. This makes it easier to completely empty your bladder, which alleviates symptoms of urge and overflow incontinence.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and the effectiveness of lifestyle changes as a treatment for urinary incontinence. These methods may not help some cases of incontinence but may help individuals manage the loss of bladder control due to stress or pelvic floor problems.
- Bladder training: Try waiting a little longer between each trip to the bathroom to build up strength in bladder control. You can also schedule trips to the restroom, so that you train yourself to go at specific times - instead of whenever the urge hits you.
- Kegel exercises: Contracting the muscles around the bladder can strengthen the pelvic floor. Talk to your health care provider about the appropriate technique to strengthen these muscles. Kegel exercises may help mitigate the symptoms of stress and urge incontinence.
- Avoid caffeine and fluid intake before activities: If you struggle to control your bladder during events or activities, try avoiding caffeine - which can stimulate the bladder - and excessive water intake before these circumstances. Additionally, if you frequently wake up in the night to use the restroom, try limiting fluid intake in the hours before you go to bed.
- Use pads or drip collectors: Several products, including drip collector pads, can be worn under your garments to catch leakage caused by urinary incontinence. These products are light so that they can be worn without anyone noticing.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can put added pressure on your internal organs - including the bladder. Maintaining a healthy weight can lead to several health benefits, one of which is increased bladder control.
If medication and lifestyle changes are not enough to adequately treat your incontinence symptoms, your doctor may recommend an injection of Botox or synthetic bulking material to relax the bladder or increase the size of the urethra. This can help reduce symptoms of stress incontinence.
In other cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to help support the bladder neck (the area of thickened muscle where the urethra meets the bladder). This can help reduce pressure on the urinary tract, which can help reduce symptoms of urinary incontinence.
Invasive procedures are usually reserved for cases where other forms of treatment have failed to adequately treat the condition. Talk to your doctor about whether or not surgery or injection procedures are the right treatment option for you.