What is Urinary Incontinence?
Although people sometimes feel embarrassed about having urinary incontinence, it is a common health condition shared by millions of others. The term urinary incontinence means that you pass urine unintentionally. It can take one of the following four forms:
- Chronic urinary retention: Also known as overflow incontinence, this type causes your bladder to leak urine because you can’t empty your bladder completely each time you urinate. It can be physically uncomfortable to feel like your bladder is always full.
- Stress incontinence: This occurs when you laugh, sneeze, or other times when your bladder is under more pressure than usual. The amount of urine leakage is usually small unless you have a full bladder at the time.
- Total incontinence: When your bladder cannot store any amount of urine, your doctor will diagnose you with total incontinence. Your bladder will either pass urine continuously or you will struggle with frequent leaking. The urine leakage takes place all during the day and night.
- Urge incontinence: You will feel frequent and sudden urges to urinate if you have this type of urinary incontinence. It is usually accompanied by leaking when you first feel the urge. Common triggers for urge incontinence include a change of position, sexual intercourse, and the sound of running water. It can also wake you up several times per night.
Although most people only have one type of urinary incontinence, it is possible to have a combination of urge and stress incontinence at the same time. Frequent urinary tract infections are a common cause of all types of incontinence. Each type of urinary incontinence has several different causes associated it with it as well. For example, childbirth can cause stress incontinence, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine can cause urge incontinence, bladder stones or constipation can cause overflow incontinence, and a spinal cord injury can cause total incontinence. These are just some of dozens of possibilities.
Diagnosis of Urinary Incontinence?
If you feel like you might have this problem, schedule an appointment to see a urologist at United Hospital Center (UHC) as soon as possible. He or she will ask you to explain your symptoms and may recommend that you keep a symptom diary for several days to help uncover patterns to your urinary incontinence. You should write down things as such as how much you drink each day, how many times you had to urinate, the approximate amount of urine you passed each time, and whether you felt any sudden urges to use the bathroom.
Your doctor will also conduct a physical exam that includes examining your pelvis. If you suspect a urinary tract infection, your doctor will run a dipstick test to confirm this or rule it out. You may also need an ultrasound. The specific tests your doctor runs depend on your explanation of symptoms and the specific type of urinary incontinence that he or she suspects you have.
Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence
Urologists typically try conservative, non-surgical approaches first except for the most severe cases. Your treatment may consist of one or more of the following:
- Bladder training involves meeting with a medical professional for about six weeks to learn how to increase the duration between each time you need to urinate. You may have pelvic floor training at the same time.
- Lifestyle changes such as reducing fluid intake, eliminating caffeine, and losing weight if you are overweight or obese.
- Pelvic floor muscle training to strengthen the pelvic floor and prevent the leakage of urine. Patients who don’t see any progress with these exercises or who cannot complete them may opt for electrical stimulation instead. This involves placing a device inside the anus for men and the vagina for women that sends electrical impulses to strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Vaginal cones are small weights inserted into the female vagina. They help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Some patients see a complete relief of their urinary incontinence from these conservative methods while others continue to have at least some symptoms. Wearing incontinence pads or taking prescription medication can help in the latter case. Surgery is a last resort and may include options such as a bladder sling.
Urinary incontinence can have a significant impact on your quality of life, but UHC is here to help. Please schedule an exam today to get started on the road to recovery.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.