Urinary incontinence (UI) also known as involuntary urination is, as the name implies, any uncontrolled leakage of urine. It’s a very common problem, often closely related with urinary tract infection (UTI), weak or overactive bladder and frequent urination, that is experienced by both men and women with women being twice as susceptible to this condition. However, due to the nature of this problem, many decide not to talk about it and not seek medical attention. By doing this, the problem is simply ignored, while the quality of life suffers, despite the option of a successful treatment being available.
What’s on this page?
What is incontinence?
As mentioned, urinary incontinence is any uncontrolled leakage of urine. However, the amount of urine released as well as the common triggers and root causes can be very different. In most cases, urinary incontinence isn’t a condition, but a symptom of an underlying medical problem which often remains unknown due to the fact that only a small number of affected seeks medical help. As of now, the medical experts have identified four main types of incontinence:
- Urge incontinence caused by an overactive bladder
- Stress incontinence caused by poor closure of the bladder
- Overflow incontinence caused by poor bladder contraction or some sort of blockage of the urethra
- Functional incontinence that is caused by medications or health problems that make it difficult to reach the bathroom
Stress incontinence is especially common and it involves the loss of urine during physical activity (such as running, jumping, dancing or even sneezing). This type of UI can have a profound impact on everyday life of an individual due to the constant anxiety over whether this might happen in a public place or far away from home where you cannot change clothes. However, for this type of UI, only a small amount of urine is usually released.
On the other hand, urge incontinence is not related to physical activity and external stimuli, but to the issues in the tissues in the urinary tract, causing the bladder to be overactive or week. This can also be a symptom of cystitis (urinary tract infection affecting the bladder). The symptoms of urge incontinence include:
- Frequent urination or urge to urinate
- Sleep interruption by this urge
- Abnormal urinary frequency (more than 8 times per day)
The root causes of urinary incontinence can vary and they include:
- Various pelvic bladder and renal disease
As evident, there are many different and completely unrelated conditions and processes that can cause UI. Many of them, such as pregnancy and additional pressure on the bladder associated with it, UI in the period after giving birth, the hormonal imbalance caused by menopause, are exclusive to women. Regarding urinary incontinence in menopause, certain studies have linked it to the lack of oestrogen and the subsequent changes in the mucous membranes of the vagina.
Visiting the doctor is highly recommended first and foremost because a medical professional will be able to determine the exact cause of the problem and prescribe appropriate treatment accordingly. It is very important to examine different possibilities and find the right one in order to make the treatment quick and effective.
While many people opt to try different home-made remedies and keep their problem to themselves, this might be highly problematic. UI is always a symptom of some more specific condition, which requires treatment and by ignoring the problem, you are also ignoring the “message” that your body is sending you, namely, that something is wrong. Even if the root cause is rather benign (as is usually the case), urinary incontinence can be very unpleasant and disruptive when it comes to everyday life. The anxiety and stress associated with this condition can make social activities rather difficult and, in worst cases, lead to isolation and withdrawal from the friends and broader society.
However, once the cause has been identified, the treatment is usually rather easy. If urinary tract infection is the main trigger, treating your UTI will also solve your frequent urination and incontinence problems. However, if something else is the problem, there might be different alternative treatments that include:
- Pelvic floor training aimed at strengthening the muscles in the pelvic floor
- Medicines for overactive bladder
- Lifestyle changes
Pelvic floor Exercises
Often underestimated, yet surprisingly efficient, pelvic floor exercises aim to strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor and thus increase their capacity of holding liquid inside. Recommended by doctors all over the world, this type of exercise is rather simple – it requires the patient to squeeze all the muscles in the abdomen at the same time. This can be achieved by a rather straightforward exercise that doesn’t require you to be in top-notch shape. Just follow the steps:
- Lie on your back with feet on the ground and knees bent
- Squeeze the muscles in your abdomen and keep them contracted between 6 and 8 seconds before relaxing
- Stay like that a couple of seconds and then repeat
- Repeat the process for 10 times and you’re done!
- Do this exercise 3 times a day minimum
- Once you feel that squeezing the muscles of your abdomen isn’t an effort, you can increase the exercise to include 10 squeezes per round
UI medical treatment
If the exercises do not help, medical treatment might be the best course of action. One of the most often prescribed medications is Detrusitol Retard, a prolonged-release tablet that affects the autonomic nervous system and relaxes muscles in the bladder. This medicament is usually used for treatment of an overactive bladder, frequent or involuntary urination.
Vesicare is another drug often prescribed for the treatment of urinary incontinence. The active ingredient, called slifenacin, has a similar mechanism of action as Detrusitol Retard and is proven to be rather efficient in the treatment of numerous symptoms of UTI.
What can I do?
Aside from medical treatment, pelvic floor exercises might be your best bet at solving this issue. To increase your chances of success, it is also recommended to make certain lifestyle changes, including:
- Reduce your coffee and alcohol consumption
- Use incontinence pads to prevent uncomfortable situations
- Take notice to see if there is certain type of beverage that worsen the symptom