Urinary incontinence is the accidental release of urine. Although this can be embarrassing, it does not pose any significant health problems. This issue is common among older women and women who have undergone some medical procedures.
Incontinence may only be a temporary issue for some women. Treating the root cause of a temporary case of urinary incontinence will usually solve the problem.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
Doctors categorize urinary incontinence patients by how long their symptoms last, and by which symptoms they display. The most common type of urinary incontinence in women is stress incontinence or incontinence caused by pressure or stress in the bladder. This can cause urine to leak while:
- Doing any other physical activity that puts pressure on the bladder
The other type of urinary incontinence is urge incontinence, or leaking preceded by a strong urge to urinate. Some women will have little to no warning before leaking occurs, while others may experience an overwhelming need to urinate and do not make it to a restroom in time.
Some women have overactive bladders that can respond to stimuli like the sound of running water or by placing a hand in running water. Older women often experience a combination of both types of urinary incontinence.
Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence
A doctor will assess a patient’s medical history and patterns of incontinence to determine the root cause and best method of treatment. During the screening process, the doctor may use:
- Ultrasound imaging
- Urodynamic testing
A doctor may also wish to perform a bladder stress test to gauge whether a patient is struggling with stress incontinence or urge incontinence, as the treatments for the two types of incontinence differ.
A doctor may also ask a patient to keep a “bladder journal,” or to start recording urination times, stressors that cause leaking, and daily nutrition intake. This helps form a more accurate picture of a patient’s incontinence issues.
Causes of Stress Incontinence
Stress incontinence develops over time or after certain life events, such as sudden weight gain or childbirth. Women who have previously had little to no trouble with urinary incontinence may suddenly experience more significant leaking after events such as these.
Other medical conditions, injuries or physical activities that weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor can also lead to stress incontinence. When the pelvic floor muscles cannot support the bladder, it will drop down and press against the vagina, making it difficult or impossible to use the muscles that close the urethra.
Causes of Urge Incontinence
The root of a case of urge incontinence is an overactive bladder muscle. Such a muscle will push urine out of the bladder, even if only a small amount is present. Some neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and stroke can lead to urge incontinence, while other cases develop due to stress or bladder irritation.
What Is Urinary Incontinence: How to Treat It
Treatment for stress incontinence, urge incontinence or a combination thereof can involve several possible options. Some women benefit greatly from physical therapies such as Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This is a proven effective method for women who suffer from stress incontinence.
Other women may find devices like pessary rings to be effective. These small, removable devices fit inside the vagina and put pressure on the urethra, preventing leaks.
Certain medications may prove useful for some patients, but most medications that improve stress incontinence come with a host of unpleasant side effects. You should speak with your doctor at length about the pros and cons of medication for stress incontinence.
Finally, surgery is a last resort option to restore the bladder to its original position. Doctors generally only recommend this if other treatment options have failed.
Lifestyle and Behavioral Therapy
Women who struggle with urge incontinence may benefit from “bladder training,” or performing regular exercises to help them learn to hold it longer. These exercises may not work for every woman, so doctors will sometimes prescribe medication to regulate bladder urges. In some cases, simple dietary changes like limiting caffeine intake can help.
Overcoming Urinary Incontinence
Women of all ages who struggle with urinary incontinence can find solutions that work for them. Minor cases may only require temporary solutions like period pads during times when incontinence is predictable. For example, some women may only experience urinary incontinence while jogging. So doing Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles could be an effective solution.
For more advanced or complex cases, medication or surgery may be the only solutions. Women should consult their gynecologists and other health care providers closely to find a safe and effective solution for urinary incontinence. While often effective, some medications and surgical procedures will entail significant side effects.
Arizona Gynecology Consultants helps patients connect get connected to a large network of trusted, experienced providers who can address all aspects of gynecological and uterine health. Women who experience urinary incontinence issues can contact us for more information on resources and providers in Arizona, or for more info on the services we offer.