Have you ever sneezed and felt a little urine come out? Or maybe you've laughed so hard that you almost wet yourself? The culprit may very well be urinary incontinence.
Incontinence is a word that you have most likely heard of at least once, whether on television, online, or in passing conversation. Though what exactly is incontinence? What are its causes and how can they be prevented? In this post, we will explore urinary incontinence, answer these questions, and provide some helpful tips along the way.
What is Urinary Incontinence?
This is the term used to describe any involuntary loss of urine which can range from a small leak to a complete loss of urinary control. Though it can affect both men and women, incontinence is most common in women with studies showing that it affects 1 in 4 women over the age of eighteen in the US. The most common causes for urinary incontinence are; age, childbirth, trauma, pelvic organ prolapse, menopause (in women), nerve problems, prostate problems (in men), and health changes.
There are several types of incontinence, each with their own causes and symptoms. These include:
- Stress incontinence: We’re not talking about stress from work or personal situations, but rather excess physical stress on your bladder. This type of incontinence is commonly seen in women whose bladders are under excess pressure from factors such as being overweight, sneezing, lifting heavy objects, exercise, or medical conditions.
- Urge incontinence: With this form of incontinence, those affected have sudden urges to urinate. Older men and women are most frequently affected by this form, which is why you may see older people go to the bathroom many times during the day - especially at night.
- Overflow incontinence: Often referred to as urinary retention, this occurs when your bladder is not being fully emptied when you go to the bathroom. Most commonly seen in men, chronic urinary retention often leads to overflow incontinence, resulting in a constant leak of urine.
- Functional incontinence: This is commonly seen in the elderly or people with health conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Those affected with this type of incontinence are unable to move, think, or express their need to urinate in time to make it to the bathroom.
- Mixed incontinence: When two or more of the above forms of incontinence are combined, they are referred to as mixed incontinence.
As with any health condition, there are specific things that can trigger incontinence or make symptoms worse, including:
- Alcohol: A very powerful bladder stimulant - alcohol forces you to go to the bathroom more than usual, worsening the effects of urinary incontinence.
- Caffeine: The high level of caffeine found in coffee can cause inflammation in the bladder, making you feel the need to urinate more often.
- Carbonated drinks (including sparkling water): Bubbly drinks can cause irritation in sensitive bladders and worsen symptoms of incontinence.
- Smoking: It has been shown that smokers are three times as likely to get bladder cancer which can cause incontinence. The chemicals found in cigarettes also causes bladder and prostate inflammation, which can worsen incontinence.
- Heart and blood pressure medications: A variety of heart and blood pressure medications can cause patients to feel the need to urinate more frequently. If you find yourself in this situation, you can work with your doctor to see what the best solution is for you. Most importantly, do not discontinue using any prescribed medication without consulting your doctor first.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs): 50-60% of women in the US suffer from a UTI at least once in their lifetime. Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria travels up the urethra and causes an infection in the bladder. This can cause pain and a frequent need to urinate. If you suspect that you may have a UTI, it is important to consult a medical professional, as an untreated UTI can result in a kidney infection and lead to serious health complications.
- Constipation: Perhaps this is not the first trigger you would think of, but the "full" feeling that comes with being constipated can confuse your body, making you feel the need to urinate more often.
Though the prospect of managing your urinary incontinence may seem overwhelming, rest assured that there are many things that you can do to improve your symptoms. You can start by taking preventive steps such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a diet rich in fiber, and practicing pelvic floor exercises.
There are also many treatments available that can improve incontinence. These include physical therapy, behavioral modification therapy, and medications.
Consult with Metro OBGYN
If you feel that you may have urinary incontinence, don't hesitate to make an appointment with one of our practitioners today and find a solution that is right for you.