A common problem, urinary incontinence, can range in severity from an occasional leakage of urine when you sneeze or cough, to having a strong and frequent need to urinate. In most cases, small dietary or lifestyle changes can treat symptoms of urinary incontinence – and sometimes some simple medical care is required.
We are here to help! We understand that urinary incontinence can be an embarrassing problem, and we will help you discover the root of the issue and how best it can be fixed.
What causes female urinary incontinence?
There are many potential causes of urinary incontinence, from underlying medical conditions and physical problems to everyday habits. Some of these causes are listed below.
Temporary Urinary Incontinence
Some medications, foods, and drinks act as diuretics, things that stimulate your bladder and increase your urine volume. Examples of these include:
- Carbonated drinks and sparkling water
- Artificial sweeteners
- Chili peppers
- Foods that are high in spice, sugar, or acid, especially citrus fruits.
- Heart and blood pressure medications, sedatives, and muscle relaxants.
- Large doses of vitamin C
Urinary incontinence can also be the result of an easily treatable medical condition, for example:
- Urinary tract infection. An infection in your bladder can cause you to have a stronger urge to urinate and may cause incontinence.
- Constipation. Due to its location nearby, the rectum shares many of the same nerves as the bladder. If you have hard, compacted stool, it could cause the nerves in your bladder to become overactive, increasing urinary frequency.
Persistent Urinary Incontinence
Underlying physical changes or problems could also cause urinary incontinence to become a persistent condition.
- Pregnancy. Increased weight of your fetus and hormonal changes can cause stress incontinence.
- Childbirth. Vaginal delivery may cause muscles needed for bladder control to weaken, and damage to bladder nerves and supportive tissue. This can cause a chain reaction or organ movement within your abdomen to lead to incontinence issues.
- Changes with age. As you get older, your bladder muscles may lessen in strength, decreasing your ability to store urine for longer periods. Involuntary bladder contractions are also more frequent as you get older.
- Menopause. Following menopause, it’s normal for women to produce less estrogen, a hormone that is key to keeping the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. The deterioration of these linings can cause incontinence to worsen.
- Obstruction. A tumor anywhere in your urinary tract can block the flow of urine, which can lead to overflow incontinence. Likewise, urinary stones, which are hard masses that can form in the bladder, are known to cause leakage.
- Neurological disorders. There are several conditions, including multiple sclerosis, a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, a spinal injury, or a brain tumor, that can cause interference in the nerve signals involved in bladder control.
Urodynamic studies (UDS) are used to help pinpoint the cause of urinary incontinence. These studies test how well the bladder, sphincters, and urethra hold and release urine, and show how effectively the bladder is working. They are critical in identifying why there could be leaks or blockages.
What are the types of urinary incontinence?
It’s not at all unusual for people to experience minor, occasional leaks of urine. In some cases, people may frequently lose small amounts of urine.
- Stress incontinence. If pressure is exerted on your bladder by sneezing, laughing, coughing, lifting heavy objects, or exercising, it’s possible for urine to leak.
- Urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is when you have an intense, sudden urge to urinate. It usually results in an involuntary loss of urine and often causes you to urinate frequently throughout the night. It can be the result of a minor condition like an infection, but may also be a sign of a more severe condition like diabetes or a neurological disorder.
- Overflow incontinence. If your bladder doesn’t fully empty when you urinate, you may experience constant or frequent dribbling.
- Functional incontinence. Sometimes a mental or physical impairment can keep you from making it to the bathroom on time. If you have severe arthritis, for example, you may have trouble quickly unbuttoning your pants.
- Mixed incontinence. It’s even possible to experience more than one kind of urinary incontinence. The most common combination is urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
What are the best prevention and treatment options?
Prevention strategies are the best way to stop a problem from developing in the first place. Some preventive measures you could take can involve:
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Adding more fiber to your diet, which can help prevent constipation.
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and eating acidic foods, all known bladder irritants.
- Quitting smoking
The treatment you receive for urinary incontinence depends on the kind of incontinence you are experiencing. Other factors can be related to the severity and presence of an underlying cause. In the case of an underlying cause, your doctor will focus attention there first.
Types of treatment for incontinence include:
- Behavioral Techniques – bladder training, double voiding, scheduled toilet trips, and fluid and diet management.
- Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
- Electrical Stimulation
- Medical Devices
- Interventional Therapies
If you have symptoms or questions about urinary incontinence, contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our physicians.