Having a hard time controlling your bladder? It may be urinary incontinence. An uncomfortable and embarrassing problem, urinary incontinence shows itself in various ways. When you sneeze or laugh, a small amount of urine may leak out. Or you may suddenly have such a strong urge to urinate you don't think you'll make it to the restroom before having an accident.
Think this problem is limited to older women, think again. While pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and physiology make women more likely to suffer incontinence, it can affect both males and females at any age.
What causes urinary incontinence? Is it preventable? And if you suffer from this problem, is it treatable?
Stress incontinence refers to the loss of urine resulting from pressure on your bladder when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift something heavy, or exercise. Leakage of urine occurs because the sphincter muscle on the bladder has been weakened. For women, this often happens after pregnancy or menopause. For men, stress incontinence may result from the removal of the prostate gland.
Another form of incontinence is urge incontinence. This refers to an intense, sudden urge to urinate. You may have only a few seconds to reach a toilet before you involuntarily urinate, and you may feel the need to urinate often throughout the day and night. Urge incontinence is often brought on by bladder irritation, bowel problems, urinary tract infections, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, or issues related to multiple sclerosis. When there seems to be no cause, the incontinence is called overactive bladder.
Some people suffer from overflow incontinence, a condition that causes the sufferer to constantly or frequently leak small amounts of urine. This results from an inability to completely empty the bladder and usually follows some sort of injury to the bladder, nerve damage or blocked urethra from diabetes, spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, or problems with the prostate gland.
Additionally, there are several other kinds of incontinence. Mixed incontinence occurs when someone experiences more than one type of incontinence. Functional incontinence refers to incontinence that is the result of a mental or physical problem. Lastly, someone with total incontinence experiences a continual leakage of urine.
Urinary incontinence is not a disease. It's a symptom of an underlying medical condition, physical problem, or result of certain habits. Causes of temporary incontinence include alcohol, caffeine, over-hydration, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, acidic foods, corn syrup and certain medications.
Often, treatable medical conditions are behind incontinence. These include urinary tract infections and constipation. Other possible causes and risk factors - as mentioned before - include pregnancy, childbirth, aging, high blood pressure, obesity, menopause, hysterectomy, prostate or bladder issues, smoking, and other various diseases.
You may not always be able to prevent urinary incontinence, but you can decrease your risk with a few tips. Maintain a healthy weight, don't smoke, limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, get plenty of fiber in your diet, exercise daily, and perform pelvic floor muscle exercises (a.k.a. Kegels). To perform Kegels, squeeze the muscles that you would to stop urination. Hold for three seconds and repeat.
If you are one of the millions who suffer from urinary incontinence, lifestyle or behavioral changes may be all you need to find relief. For starters, take scheduled trips to the bathroom, perform plenty of Kegel exercises, drink less fluids, and consider wearing absorbent pads.
In the event this doesn't work, electrical stimulation to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles may help. If not, medications can help, as can certain medical devices are available for women. These include urethral inserts, which act like a plug in the urethra, or a pessary, a ring worn in the vagina to help hold up the bladder. Other interventional therapies are also used for women. As a last resort, surgical intervention is available.