Let’s Talk About What Urinary Incontinence Is
Urinary incontinence, also called overactive bladder, is defined as the depletion of bladder control. Incontinence is not a disease, it’s a symptom of many different types of conditions that affect the urethra, bladder and the other muscles that support these organs. A multitude of things can go awry within the complex system that enables our bladder to control urination like weak/overactive bladder muscles, weak pelvic floor muscles, nerve damage, diseases or pelvic organ prolapse. Incontinence is classified by variances in symptoms and the diversity of problems a patient is enduring.
Contrary to popular belief, urinary incontinence is not a normal part of aging or having children, and it can usually be cured/controlled by your healthcare provider. The initial step in managing incontinence is coming into our office to meet with Dr. Davis. We will take your medical history, give you a physical exam, ask about your symptoms and health concerns. We may also do a number of tests including; tests that gauge how well you empty your bladder, urine and blood tests. In addition, we may ask you to keep a symptom journal or bladder diary.
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the loss of control over one’s bladder which causes them to leak urine. Urine is manufactured by the kidneys and accumulates in the bladder. The bladder has muscles that contract when you have to urinate. When the bladder muscles contract urine is forced out of your bladder through a tube called the urethra, simultaneously, the sphincter muscles around the urethra relax to let the urine out of your body.
Incontinence can happen when the bladder muscles suddenly tighten and the sphincter muscles are not strong enough to squeeze the urethra shut. This causes an unexpected, powerful impulse to urinate that may not be controllable. Urinary incontinence can mean you either release a lot of urine all at once, leak a small amount of urine or both. Additionally, pressure caused by laughing, exercising or sneezing may cause you to leak urine. Urinary incontinence may also happen if there is a problem with the nerves that control the urethra and bladder muscles.
Who gets urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence affects twice as many women as men. Urinary incontinence is more common in older women but it can happen to women at any age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of women that are 65 and older have urinary incontinence.
Why does urinary incontinence affect more women than men?
Any damage or weakness to the female urethra is more likely to cause urinary incontinence. This is because the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra which means there is less muscle keeping the urine in until you are ready to urinate.
Reproductive health events that are unique to women, like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, may also make urinary incontinence more likely.
The pelvic floor muscles that hold up the bladder, urethra, uterus (womb), and bowels may become weaker or damaged during pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. The muscles in the urinary tract must work harder when the muscles that support it are too weak to hold the urine. This extra pressure on the urethra and bladder can cause urinary leakage.
Urinary incontinence can also be caused by changes in hormones like estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause or menopause.
What are the types of urinary incontinence that affect women?
The two most prevalent types of urinary incontinence that affect women are:
● Stress incontinence. This is the most prevalent form of incontinence which happens when there is too much stress or pressure on the bladder. This can occur when weak pelvic floor muscles put pressure on the bladder and urethra. This pressure makes the bladder and urethra work harder. Everyday movements that use the pelvic floor muscles can cause you to leak urine, such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Physical activity and sudden movements can also cause you to leak urine.
● Urge incontinence. With urge incontinence, urine leakage typically happens after a powerful, sudden urge to urinate before you can get to a bathroom. Some ladies with this type of incontinence feel the urge to urinate more than eight times a day but they are able to get a bathroom in time and they only urinate a little once they get to the bathroom. Urge incontinence is more common in older women and is sometimes called “overactive bladder.” It can happen when you don’t expect it, such as during sleep, after drinking water, or when you hear or touch running water (World Journal of Urology).
Many women with incontinence have both stress and urge symptoms, this is called “mixed incontinence.”
What are the symptoms of urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom of another health problem. Incontinence is typically caused by a hormone deficiency or weak pelvic floor muscles. Some women have other urinary symptoms, in addition to their urinary incontinence:
● Going to the restroom more than usual (more than eight times a day or more than twice at night).
● Urinating while sleeping.
● Pressure/spasms in the pelvic area that causes a strong urge to urinate (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).