Urinary incontinence is embarrassing, time-consuming, and twice as common in women than in men. Here’s what you can do about it.
Is Your Bladder Under Control?
MORE WOMEN THAN MEN HAVE URINARY INCONTINENCE
Girls develop bladder control earlier than boys and are also less likely to have bed wetting problems. As adults, however, women are much more liable to experience urinary incontinence because of anatomical differences in the pelvic region and some of the changes caused by pregnancy and childbirth. Although bladder problems are not an inevitable part of aging, they do tend to increase in both men and women as they get older.
• Overactive bladder muscles
• Weakened pelvic floor muscles
• Chronic bladder inflammation
• Side effects from prior surgery
This kind of incontinence happens when there is unexpected leakage of urine caused by pressure or sudden muscle contractions on the bladder. It can occur during exercise, heavy lifting, coughing, sneezing or laughing, and is the most common bladder control problem in young and middle-aged women. It can also be caused by an inherent weakness of the pelvic floor muscles or from the stress of childbirth. In middle-aged women, stress incontinence sometimes begins at menopause.
You have urge incontinence—also called overactive bladder (oab)—if you feel the urge to urinate but can’t hold in the urine long enough to get to a bathroom. This kind of incontinence occurs in people who’ve had a stroke or a chronic disease such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis. In can also be an early sign of bladder cancer.
You frequently get a sudden need to pee. You may be able to “hold it” until you get to a toilet, but you are constantly having to stop what you’re doing to rush to the bathroom.
COMMON INCONTINENCE RISK FACTORS
• Being female.
• Having excess body fat, which can increase pressure on the bladder.
• Chronic diseases, such as kidney disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
• Smoking: A chronic smoker’s cough can trigger or aggravate stress incontinence.
• High-impact sports with activities that create sudden pressure on the bladder.
• Advancing age, when bladder and urinary sphincter muscles tend to weaken.
MANAGING MILD INCONTINENCE
• Drink less fluids.
• Avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas).
• Empty your bladder regularly, every 2 to 4 hours.
• Bladder-habit training: Establishing a periodic schedule for urinating (e.g., every 3 hours).
• Pelvic-muscle or Kegel exercises: An exercise routine that helps strengthen weak pelvic muscles and improve bladder control.
A pessary is a small therapeutic device (usually composed of plastic or silicone) like the outer ring of a diaphragm that may safely be inserted into the pelvic area to help patients with stress urinary incontinence. You can wear it continuously or only as needed (e.g., during a hard workout).
• Several anticholinergic meds (pills or patches) treat urge incontinence by blocking some of the nerves in the bladder muscle.
• Botox injections into the bladder muscle helps relax the bladder so it can hold more urine. These injections can last up to 8 or 9 months.
Note: All prescription medications may have side effects than can be harmful. If you have a bladder problem, see your doctor and use only medications especially prescribed for you.
There are different types of surgeries available for both urge and stress incontinence.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
• webmed.com - Basis for article
• sharecare.com - Why urinary incontinence is more common in women
• mayoclinic.org - Kegel exercises explained
• ncbi.nlm.nih.gov - Explains what a pessary is
• en.wikipedia.org - Explains anticholinergic meds