What is incontinence / what is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is an issue causing people to unintentionally pass urine. Female incontinence is more common, but incontinence is something that men can experience too.
Loss of bladder control can make you feel self-conscious but this urine problem is more common than many people realise.
What are the symptoms of urinary incontinence?
People with urinary incontinence find themselves leaking urine. This can be minor and occasional or more moderate and frequent.
There are the following different types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence: dribbling urine when you laugh, sneeze or cough.
- Urge incontinence: when urine leaks during or after you getting the sudden urge to pee.
- Overflow incontinence: also called chronic urinary retention, this is when urine leaks due to a person not being able to empty their bladder completely.
- Total incontinence: when your bladder is unable to store any urine, resulting in frequent or constant bladder leakage.
It is possible to have both stress and urge incontinence.
What causes urinary incontinence?
The different kinds of incontinence have various causes:
- Stress incontinence is generally caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter.
- Urge incontinence is usually due to overactive detrusor muscles. It is these muscles that control the bladder.
- Overflow incontinence is due to a blockage in the bladder stopping it emptying completely.
- Total incontinence is generally caused by a problem in the bladder from birth or a spinal injury.
How can you treat urinary incontinence?
There are a variety of ways to treat urinary incontinence. Your doctor can advise which method of treatment is best for you.
You can start by making some lifestyle changes, such as avoiding drinking a lot of alcohol or caffeine, experimenting with drinking more or less fluid during the day and taking steps to reduce your weight if you are overweight.
You can also try strengthening exercises for your pelvic floor muscles. This involves squeezing the muscles that control the bladder. Bladder training can also help you learn techniques to extend the length of time between feeling the need to urinate and actually going to the toilet.
There are a number of medications you can take to help control an overactive bladder. These include Vesicare and Detrusitol capsules.
Finally, there are some surgical procedures that you may be suitable for depending on the kind of bladder incontinence you have. You should speak to your doctor for more information.
Whilst you are awaiting treatment, you may find it more comfortable to use products such as incontinence pads or pants, especially if you find yourself leaking urine without knowing it.
What can you do to help prevent urinary incontinence?
It’s not always possible to prevent urinary incontinence, but there are some steps you can take to minimise your chances. These are:
- Controlling your weight
- Staying fit, and keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong in particular
- Not drinking too much alcohol or caffeine