There's no doubt about it: there is a stigma associated with urinary incontinence. While it's true that many people find it difficult to talk about an issue as personal and private as incontinence, it's also true that the first step in managing it is to begin to learn more about its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Whether you're beginning to experience the symptoms of urinary incontinence yourself or you just want to learn more about how to talk to a loved one dealing with bladder issues, read on to learn all about what urinary incontinence is and how it can be treated.
What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is simply defined as a loss of bladder control. However, there are actually four different types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence refers to incontinence induced by physical, rather than mental, stress. Patients experiencing stress incontinence often leak urine when stress is placed on their bladder, typically through actions such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, or even exercise.
- Urge incontinence manifests when patients leak urine after feeling a strong urge to go — sometimes up to eight or more times a day. This type of incontinence may be caused by damage to the nervous system or damage to the nerves or muscles in the bladder. Some people with overactive bladders may even feel the need to go when their bladders are empty.
- Overflow incontinence occurs when people (usually men) find themselves unable to empty their bladders completely, which can lead to their bladders overflowing and leaking once they are full.
- Functional incontinence happens when a person is unable to make it to the bathroom in time to urinate, typically because of an unrelated condition such as arthritis or dementia.
As you can see, incontinence can manifest itself in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons, none of which are shameful or embarrassing.
Why Does Urinary Incontinence Happen?
Contrary to popular belief, incontinence in men and women doesn't just happen with old age. There are a wide range of common causes of urinary incontinence, including:
- Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. In women, pregnancy and childbirth can place strain on muscles and ligaments in the pelvis, weakening them and leading to incontinence. Similarly, menopause can involve a decrease in estrogen, which helps keep the urethra and bladder healthy. These factors can make it quite common for women who have gone through childbirth or menopause to experience urinary incontinence.
- Prostate issues. Urinary incontinence in men can manifest itself in a variety of ways, one of which is prostate problems. For example, overflow incontinence is commonly caused by an enlarged prostate, and men who undergo prostate surgery are more likely to develop incontinence.
- Smoking, obesity, and urinary tract infections. UTIs can irritate your bladder and lead to incontinence, whereas overweight individuals are more likely to feel extra pressure placed on their bladder — and it's still not clear why smokers are more likely to develop incontinence than non-smokers. Regardless, these three factors demonstrate that the factors causing incontinence are many, varied, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Can Urinary Incontinence Be Cured?
The good news is that urinary incontinence is treatable — and also that it's important to treat. Not only is urinary incontinence an annoyance or a pain on its own, but urinary issues can also be symptoms of a more serious blockage or even prostate cancer. Additionally, if left untreated, issues in which a patient is unable to empty their bladder can lead to complications such as urinary tract infections.
Making the decision to speak to a doctor about urinary incontinence can feel awkward or difficult, but it's undoubtedly worth it. Some of the treatments a doctor may use to combat a case of urinary incontinence may include:
- Bladder training. Your doctor may recommend that you try "holding it" to strengthen your muscles or — if you're a woman — that you perform multiple sets of kegel exercises a day to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
- Scheduling bathroom trips. If your body is unable to gauge when you need to urinate, your doctor may help you schedule trips to the bathroom every three or four hours to avoid overflow or leakage.
- Lifestyle changes. Losing weight, drinking less alcohol and caffeine, and quitting smoking can all help reduce your risk of developing or worsening a case of urinary incontinence.
- Medication and surgery. These tools are more extreme than others in doctors' arsenals, but they can be used when appropriate. Some medications can calm nerves and muscles to combat bladder spasms, while surgery will likely only be used in severe or extreme cases.
When Do I Need to See a Doctor?
If you've been experiencing the symptoms of urinary incontinence — namely, urine leakage under one or more of the scenarios discussed above — then it's worth speaking to a doctor. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if your urinary incontinence has caused you to limit your social interactions or prevent you from fulfilling a carrying out an activity or obligation. If your urinary incontinence is negatively affecting your quality of life, it's probably time to see a doctor.
Talking about urinary issues can feel uncomfortable, but there are treatments that can provide much-needed relief — and, as mentioned earlier, incontinence can often be a symptom of a larger, more serious issue. If you're experiencing urinary incontinence, it may be worth setting aside concerns about stigma and privacy and speaking with a professional doctor who can put you at ease.
Schedule an Appointment Today
Mississippi Urology Clinic has been providing high-quality urology care for years. Our board-certified urologists are experienced in treating a wide variety of urology conditions, including urinary incontinence, and we are skilled at diagnosing and treating incontinence in our patients. Our commitment to our patients means that we treat everyone we see with dignity and respect. We'll help guide you through your treatment options as quickly and easily as possible so you can enjoy an improved quality of life.
If you're interested in learning more about how we can help with your urinary incontinence issues, don't hesitate to contact us today. We're looking forward to seeing you.