Have you ever been laughing so hard you peed a little? While that’s a sure sign the joke was funny, it’s not usually a humorous situation. Sometimes urine escapes when you cough or sneeze. Other times you simply feel such a strong urge to urinate that you can’t make it to a toilet in time. It’s times like these when the situation is anything but funny—in fact, it’s extremely embarrassing. The problem may be urinary incontinence, a loss of bladder control. If you experience urinary incontinence, you are not alone. One-quarter to one-third of Americans suffer from urinary incontinence—that’s millions of men and women in the United States. And while it’s an unfortunate and untimely experience, the more you know about urinary incontinence, the better your chances of preventing it in the future.

Who Is At Risk? 

Urinary Incontinence occurs in more women than men. Research shows that 30% of females from ages 30-60 suffer from urinary incontinence in comparison to 1-5% of males. Women are often affected during and after pregnancy. The risk actually increases for women if they experienced urinary incontinence while pregnant as well as for those who have had multiple childbirths. Women who have gone through menopause are at risk because of the drop in estrogen, and men who have prostate problems have an increased risk. Urinary incontinence may affect both men and women who are obese, have high blood pressure, smoke regularly, or have diabetes. Lastly, age plays a major role in urinary incontinence as the pelvic floor muscles become weaker.

What Causes Urinary Incontinence? 

Temporary incontinence can be caused by the consumption of foods and beverages that increase your urine production. These products include caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, spicy foods, chili peppers, chocolate, and artificial sweeteners. Stress incontinence occurs during an activity when pressure is applied to the bladder. This is typically caused by physical changes or problems such as pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, hysterectomy, and obesity. Urinary incontinence is described as an intense urge to urinate coupled with an involuntary loss of urine and is often associated with an enlarged prostate, inflammation in the urinary tract, or neurological damage such as a stroke, MS (multiple sclerosis), and Parkinson’s disease. If your bladder never fully empties, you may suffer from overflow incontinence. This may happen as a result of a tumor putting pressure on the bladder, an enlarged prostate gland, urinary stones, or constipation.

What Can You Do?

If you suffer from any of the forms of urinary incontinence, you can seek various treatments and make a few lifestyle changes that will help you prevent—and overcome—incontinence. One of the best and easiest ways to maintain bladder control is to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the pelvic organs, bladder, small intestine, and in women, the uterus. The pelvic floor muscles are spread throughout the bottom of the pelvis. Kegel exercises can be done daily in order to strengthen the muscles. To begin a Kegel exercise, first Identify the pelvic floor muscles by attempting to stop urination midstream. Once you’ve found the right muscles, contract them and hold for five to ten seconds and then relax for the same amount of time. Attempt to do ten sets three times a day. The best part? You can do this at the office or while you’re watching TV, and no one will know! You can also train your bladder to control urination by delaying a visit to the restroom when you have the urge to urinate. Other people find success by creating and following a schedule. For instance, going to the restroom every two hours and sticking to that timetable. Over time, this may help you gain control over your bladder function.

Medical treatments are also available, but are dependent on the type of urinary incontinence you experience. If you’re looking for a urologist near you, MS Urology Clinic has six locations for your convenience. Browse our website for potential treatments and more information about urinary incontinence. If you’re unsure about what type of urinary incontinence you suffer from or want to discuss a treatment plan that’s right for you, book an appointment today.