Urinary incontinence, defined as involuntary and accidental leakage or loss of urine because of defective bladder control, is a common problem in the United States that affects an estimated 25-33 percent of the population. While both men and women can have the condition, more women are at risk of having urinary incontinence because of several factors unique to women. For instance, due to pregnancy, childbirth, different anatomical characteristics in the pelvic region, atrophy (shrinking) of sphincter muscles and menopause, women suffer from urinary incontinence much earlier and more frequently than men do. Urinary incontinence is not a normal consequence of aging, though its prevalence increases with age.
Repercussions beyond Health
Urinary incontinence is not only a health problem, but also poses a variety of psychological, social and emotional difficulties. For instance, women with urinary incontinence may want to avoid certain situations or places for fear of an embarrassing accidental leak. A strong and sudden urge to urinate may cause embarrassment and discomfort, particularly when you are not near a bathroom or toilet. Women also may withdraw from activities they love doing due to the risk of an accidental leak. As a result, urinary incontinence can limit a woman’s activities, diminish her self-confidence and reduce her joy in life. But urinary incontinence is a treatable condition as long as the underlying cause can be identified and addressed.
Two Major Types of Urinary Incontinence
There are two main types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
1. Stress Incontinence
Stress incontinence is the accidental loss of urine from the bladder due to weak pelvic muscles. Urine loss occurs during physical activity such as when sneezing, laughing, coughing, exercising or doing an activity that exerts pressure on the pelvic muscles. When you are active, you put pressure on the bladder, which in turn allows urine to escape because the pelvic muscles are weak. Stress incontinence often occurs after pregnancy or childbirth because the pelvic muscles have been stretched and weakened and nerves to the bladder may have been damaged. Obesity or excess weight also can put pressure on the weak pelvic muscles and cause stress incontinence.
2. Urge incontinence
Urge incontinence (known as overactive bladder or OAB) is the sudden, intense and uncontrollable urge to urinate, which occurs when the coordination between the brain and bladder is out of sync. For instance, the brain may send voiding signals to the bladder without warning, or pelvic muscles may become too active and contract frequently even before the bladder is full, resulting in feelings of extreme frequency and urgency. Overactive bladder is the term used to describe any incontinence characterized by uncontrollable urgency, frequency, nocturia and dysuria. Urge incontinence is common in women with an inability to control detrusor contractions, but also may occur in women in menopause (due to inadequate estrogen) or with chronic or acute urinary tract infections, bladder stones, bladder cancer, stroke and multiple sclerosis (due to interference with nerve signals responsible for bladder control).
Sign of Something More Serious
There are many reasons why women may leak urine, from serious neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and stroke, traumatic injury of the spinal cord, cardiovascular conditions affecting associated nerves, diuretic medicines, diabetes and obesity, alcohol consumption or recurrent urinary tract infections to inflammation that damages bladder nerves or irritates the bladder. It is therefore advisable to seek medical help as soon as you experience any sign of incontinence. Prompt and timely diagnosis and treatment may uncover a serious underlying problem early. At Advanced Urology Institute, we obtain a full history, conduct a comprehensive physical examination, perform specialized testing and treat urinary incontinence as safely and successfully as possible, making sure to deal effectively with all underlying issues.
A Wide Range of Treatment Options
Treatment of urinary incontinence at AUI depends on the type of incontinence and severity of symptoms. Options may include rehabilitation of pelvic muscles using weighted vaginal cones, electrical stimulation or Kegel’s exercises, sacral nerve neuromodulation, biofeedback and bladder retraining, extracorporeal magnetic innervation, occlusive devices (such as vaginal pessaries or urethral plugs), medications (such as Extended-Release Oxybutynin Chloride like Ditropan XL, tolterodine like Detrol, alpha-adrenergic drugs and estrogens), periurethral injection, and minimally invasive surgery. If you have any symptoms, you should see a urologist as quickly as possible to undergo testing, determine the underlying cause and detect any serious problem you may have.
At Advanced Urology Institute, your health is our foremost priority. We provide the right diagnosis and treatment of urinary incontinence that can quickly restore your confidence and enable you to get out there and do the things you love without worrying about accidental leakages. Do not suffer in silence. For more information on urinary incontinence, visit the “Advanced Urology Institute” site.