Urinary Incontinence Causes & Treatments

Ever had to pee but you literally can’t hold it in any longer? That’s called urinary incontinence. Why does it happen, and can it be treated? Find out below.

In this article:

  1. What Is Urinary Incontinence?
  2. What Are the Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?
  3. What Are the Four Basic Types of Urinary Incontinence?
  4. How Is Urinary Incontinence Diagnosed?
  5. Who Are at Risk for Urinary Incontinence?
  6. What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Urinary Incontinence?
  7. What are the Other Causes of Urinary Incontinence?
  8. How Is Urinary Incontinence Treated?
  9. What Are the Surgical Treatments for Urinary Incontinence?
  10. How Do You Stop Urine Leakage?
  11. Where to Get Treated for Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence: How to Deal with Unintended Leaks

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is a condition wherein a person has a loss of control in managing urine flow from the body. This is a result of the urethra not being closed tight enough to keep urine in the bladder.

What Are the Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?

Elderly Person With Rhinitis | Urinary Incontinence Causes & Treatments

Symptoms of urinary incontinence can include the following:

  • Inability to stop urine from leaking during exercise or other involuntary actions like sneezing or coughing.
  • An overwhelming urge to urinate causing urine leak before getting to the bathroom.

What Are the Four Basic Types of Urinary Incontinence?

A range of varying issues can cause urinary incontinence. These are the four basic and most common types of this condition:

  1. Urge Incontinence: This is the unexpected and sudden need to urinate more than 8 times per day can lead to leaks.
  2. Stress Incontinence: Increased pressure on the bladder and abdomen can cause involuntary loss of urine. Coughing, laughing, sneezing, and any other activity which places stress on the abdomen can cause involuntary leaks.
  3. Overflow Incontinence: This condition happens when the patient is unable to sense when the bladder is full causing the involuntary leak of small amounts of urine. This can also happen when a patient has difficulty in passing urine, so the bladder stays full for longer periods of time.
  4. Total Incontinence: A severe physical abnormality or injury can lead to the complete loss of urinary control.

Many patients can exhibit mixed incontinence, where they show symptoms of both urge and stress incontinence.

There are also urinary incontinence types relating to other health conditions:

Transient Incontinence: This is temporary incontinence caused by an acute condition or form of treatment.

Functional Incontinence: The person is unable to properly urinate because of physical or mental condition.

How Is Urinary Incontinence Diagnosed?

Close up of doctor and patient sitting at the desk near the window in hospital | Urinary Incontinence Causes & Treatments

It’s important to know the type of urinary incontinence first since this information will guide in treatment decisions.

The doctor starts off with a physical exam and review of patient history. The patient may be asked to do a series of simple actions which can demonstrate urinary incontinence, like coughing.

After these initial processes, doctors may recommend the following tests:

Urinalysis: A medical professional checks a sample of your urine for signs of any abnormalities, infection, or traces of blood.

Bladder Diary: This is a record of when you urinate, how much you drink, the amount of urine produced, the number of incontinence episodes, and how often you had the urge to urinate.

Post-Void Residual Measurement: For this procedure, patients will urinate or void into a container used for measuring urine output. The doctor checks the amount of urine left in your bladder using an ultrasound test or catheter: large amounts of leftover urine in the bladder may mean that the urinary tract has an obstruction or problem with the bladder nerves or muscles.

Who Are at Risk for Urinary Incontinence?

Both men and women from ages 18 to 60 can suffer from urinary incontinence.

But, women are more prone to incontinence for a few reasons:

  • The female urethra is short and the continence mechanism is not as well developed as in males.
  • Multiple childbirths can weaken and stretch the support of the urethra and bladder.
  • Menopause can also weaken the vagina and urethra, which hinders the urethra from closing.

Ages 60+ are also more at risk for urinary incontinence.

As a person ages, the muscles in the urethra and bladder lose some of their strength.

Changes with age can also reduce how much the bladder can hold and increases the chances of an involuntary release of urine.

What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Urinary Incontinence?

Woman smoking | Urinary Incontinence Causes & Treatments

There are other factors which can increase your risk of developing urinary incontinence aside from age and gender.

  • Weight: Extra weight can increase pressure on the bladder and surrounding muscles, which then weakens them allowing urine to leak when a person sneezes or coughs.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use can increase a person’s risk of urinary incontinence.
  • Family history: The risk of developing the condition is higher if a close family member has urinary incontinence, especially urge incontinence.
  • Other diseases: Diabetes or other neurological diseases can increase the risk of urinary incontinence.

What are the Other Causes of Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence can be caused by a range of different issues and daily habits, along with physical problems and medical conditions, as mentioned above. A thorough examination and evaluation by a doctor can determine what’s causing the leak.

Certain drinks, foods, or medications may act as diuretics which stimulate the bladder and increase urine volume. These include alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, chocolate, chili peppers.

Some treatable medical conditions can also cause urinary incontinence. Urinary tract infections can irritate the bladder, causing stronger urges to urinate, and sometimes incontinence.

Constipation can also cause urinary incontinence because the rectum and the bladder share many of the same nerves, being located close together. Hard, impacted stool in the rectum causes these nerves to be overactive, increasing urinary frequency.

How Is Urinary Incontinence Treated?

Male Patient Having Consultation With Doctor In Office | Urinary Incontinence Causes & Treatments

There are varying treatment options for patients to address urinary incontinence. These treatments can range from medical apparatuses, physical activity, and therapy.

  • Kegel exercises: These pelvic muscle exercises strengthen weak muscles surrounding the bladder.
  • Protective undergarments: These padded undergarments are designed to absorb leaked urine.
  • Catheter: Inserted into the urethra, a catheter collects the urine into an external drainage bag. This is left in place for 24 hours a day.
  • Pessary: This is an external device which helps reposition the urethra allowing it to close tightly. A pessary features a stiff ring is inserted into the vagina which then exerts pressure against the wall of the urethra and vagina.
  • Bulking injections: Bulking agents like collagen are injected directly into the urethral lining to make the urethral lining thicker and firmer to allow the urethra to close more tightly.
  • Medications: The medications doctors prescribe for urinary incontinence will depend on the factors which cause this condition in a patient.
  • InterStim Electrical Stimulation: This procedure entails sending electrical pulses to the sacral nerve, which is important in filling and emptying the bladder.

What Are the Surgical Treatments for Urinary Incontinence?

Patients can resort to surgical procedures to strengthen, support, and/or restore their bladder and urethra. If you’re considering surgery, doctors will recommend more involved tests, like pelvic ultrasound or urodynamic testing.

A urodynamic test measures pressure around and in the bladder, muscle and nerve function, flow rates, and other factors.

These are some surgical options to choose when other treatments are not working.

  • Retropubic Suspensions: This procedure entails restoring the urethra and neck of the bladder to an elevated anatomical position.
  • Slings: This procedure which addresses hypermobility makes use of a sling to support the urethra when there is increased abdominal pressure. There are two types of slings for treating urinary incontinence: bone-fixed sling supports the urethra with a graft material which is attached to the pubic bone; self-fixated slings support the urethra without screws or sutures. (Tissue ingrowth and friction secure these slings in place.)

How Do You Stop Urine Leakage?

Young woman practicing yoga doing bird dog pose | How Do You Stop Urine Leakage?

Prevention is better than cure, but it can be quite difficult to totally prevent urinary incontinence from happening if you’re at risk for it. These can help decrease your risk for urinary leaks:

  • Avoid bladder irritants, like alcohol, caffeine, and acidic foods.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Practice Kegel or pelvic floor exercises.
  • Eat more fiber to prevent constipation, which can cause urinary incontinence.
  • Quit smoking.

Urinary incontinence can have implications on a person’s confidence and social life. But this condition can be managed.

When you’ve sprung a leak and didn’t mean to, consult with your doctor on the best ways to manage your incontinence issues.

Where to Get Treated for Urinary Incontinence?

Our trained and experienced medical professionals at Midwest Urological Group can treat patients in Central Illinois and surrounding areas.

If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment for urinary incontinence evaluation and treatment, call Midwest Urological Group at (309) 692-9898.

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