Incontinence of urine occurs when you totally or partially lose control of your urinary sphincter and bladder. This weakened or lost control causes the urine to leak out involuntarily. It is more prone to affect older people and women. There are a variety of reasons that can lead to urinary incontinence. If your routine activities get hampered due to urinary incontinence, don’t shy away from consulting a doctor. Sometimes, specific lifestyle alterations and medical treatments can save from the discomfort and embarrassment caused by incontinence of urine. Often such leakage may be caused by severe underlying diseases such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones, or cancer. Read on to know about its symptoms and treatments available.
Urinary incontinence symptoms and types
The amount of leakage depends on the severity of your lost bladder control. While some may have slight or periodic urine leakages, others may have moderate leakages.
Stress incontinence occurs when your body undergoes physical pressure. When the urinary bladder and the muscles surrounding the bladder feel a sudden force, you may experience involuntary urination. Actions which may lead to stress incontinence such as:
- Heavy lifting
It occurs due to an overactive bladder. Thus, the person experiencing urge incontinence or reflex incontinence feels a sudden, strong insuppressible urge to urinate. The muscular wall surrounding the bladder undergoes an unexpected, reflexive contraction that triggers the urinary incontinence. The urge is so strong that the person experiencing it often may urinate before reaching the washroom.
Causes contributing to such urine incontinence
- Nerve damage of the bladder
- A sudden position change
- Neurologic disorder
- The weakening of the muscle of the bladder
People will face stress more than one type of incontinence. Often people experience stress incontinence and urge incontinence together.
As the name suggests, this type of urine incontinence occurs when the bladder fails to empty its full capacity. Thus, when the bladder is unable to hold the total amount of urine produced by the body, this happen. The causes the urine to drip occasionally. When the bladder’s retention property decreases, the person will have to urinate often to avoid massive or total leakage.
This type of incontinence is more prevalent in older adults or patients in a hospital. The person suffers difficulty in free locomotion and fails to reach the bathroom imminently. The patients may experience obstructed mobility due to:
- Weakened eyesight
- Poor dexterity
- Severe arthritis
- Mental issues like anxiety or depression
A person suffering from total incontinence will experience a complete loss of control of their bladder. The patient will have continuous dripping of urine. Causes that may trigger total incontinence:
- Spinal cord injury
- Damage in urinary bladder and sphincter
- Congenital issue
- Neurogenic bladder
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Nerve functionality disorder
- Vesicovaginal fistula in women
Urinary incontinence causes
Certain lifestyle habits, physical problems, underlying diseases or conditions can lead to incontinence of urine. A medical checkup can evaluate the cause behind your urinary incontinence.
Certain lifestyle habits and medications can trigger such urinary incontinence. Some foods and beverages which contribute to the cause are:
- Caffeinated drinks
- Carbonated drinks
- Artificial sweeteners
- Chili peppers
- Sugary foods
- Extremely spicy foods
- Foods with high acidic content
- Antihypertensive drugs
- Medications of high blood pressure, heart health
- High vitamin C intake
- Certain Diuretics
- Muscle relaxants
Infections in your urinary tract infection can cause irritation and inflammation in your bladder. This will create an intense urge to urinate. Often the urge becomes uncontrollable and leads to urinary incontinence.
The urinary tract and rectum have some common nerves. When the stool gets deposited for a long time, it exerts pressure on your rectum. The common nerves then put stress on your urinary muscles. This may cause temporary, mild leakage of urine.
During pregnancy, women undergo hormonal changes. Also, the fetus developing sometimes exerts pressure on the bladder muscles, causing stress incontinence.
Women often lose their bladder control after child delivery. The delivery weakens their pelvic floor muscles and damages the supportive tissue of the bladder. This triggers incontinence in women.
With age, the muscles of the bladder become weak. The bladder loses its urine retention capacity. It will cause leakage of urine in older people. Older people are also more prone to involuntary contractions of the bladder muscles. The sudden contraction will create a strong urge to urinate and even lead to incontinence of urine.
Menopause reduces the estrogen levels in women. Estrogen maintains the health and elasticity of the urethra and urinary bladder. With reduced estrogen, the bladder weakens and fails to retain the full capacity of urine. It will trigger urinary incontinence.
It is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. This type of incontinence is usually seen in men. With age, the gland starts to enlarge. The prostate gland of men often enlarges aggravating incontinence.
Men often suffer from incontinence stemming from underlying prostate cancer. Even medications and treatment of prostate cancer can cause incontinence in men.
Surgeries relating to the uterus(womb) and other reproductive parts of women will pose a threat to their pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles play a huge role in bladder and bowel movements control. Damage to it can cause incontinence in women.
Women often develop a tumor along their urinary tract. Such tumors will pose an obstruction to the passage of urine and cause incontinence. Even the development of urinary stones will block the free movement of urine leading to urinary incontinence.
Disorders in the nervous system will cause a disturbance in the bladder and lead to incontinence. Neurological disorders may lead to urinary incontinence:
- Spinal Cord injury
- Brain tumor
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
Being overweight exerts considerable push on your bladder muscles and bladder. This pressure will incapacitate your bladder and cause stress incontinence.
Tobacco content in cigarettes may lead to an increased possibility of incontinence of urine.
If your family has a history of urinary incontinence, you have a higher risk of inheriting such incontinence. It is observed more in the case of urge incontinence.
Complications and impact
Severe incontinence of urine may result in some health complications.
- Infection in the urinary tract: Repeated leakage poses a higher risk of recurring infections in your urinary tract.
- Skin issues: Continuous leakage will leave the skin wet. Further, wet skin can be a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections. Moreove, you may develop severe sores, bumps, rashes, and other skin infections.
- Affects personal life: Constant urinary leakage will hamper your relationships and work experience. You will feel social embarrassment, and this will damage your morale and confidence.
When and why to seek medical help?
It’s quite apparent to feel embarrassed about consulting a doctor for your urinary incontinence. But continuous and severe incontinence will hinder your social life and affect your mental health. When the urinary incontinence starts affecting your wellbeing, it becomes essential to consult a doctor and seek medical help. Why is it important to visit a doctor?
- Often, urinary incontinence brings you shame and embarrassment. You may shy away from social interactions. This will hamper your work life as well as personal life.
- Sometimes, urinary incontinence can be the outcome of some grave underlying disease.
- Urge incontinence will make you rush to the toilet to avoid leakages. You may fall in the process of doing so and bring serious injuries.
- Seek medical help when you start facing issues like troubled speech and disrupted walk, loss of bowel movement control, body weakness, weakened vision, loss of consciousness, and confusion.
Urinary incontinence treatment
Treatment for urinary incontinence differs from patient to patient. It mainly depends on:
- The type of urinary incontinence you are suffering from
- Your age
- The severity of the incontinence
- Underlying condition
Your doctor will consider the above factors and select the best available treatment option for you.
- Bladder training: This process will train your bladder to hold the urine for a more extended period. You will be asked to start with smaller holding periods. Every time you feel the urge, try, and hold your urine.
- Double voiding: This process reduces overflow incontinence. The purpose of double voiding is to avoid repeated, frequent travel to the bathroom. The technique teaches you to empty your bladder at one go completely.
- Scheduled toilet trips: It will maintain your urination process and reduce urinary incontinence. The process requires you to urinate in gaps of 2-4 hours. You are required to follow the time gap instead of waiting for the urge to urinate.
- Diet management: Certain food, beverages contribute to the incontinence of urine. Fluid and diet control will reduce your urination problem.
How to control diet and make lifestyle changes
- Reduction in fluid intake
- Reduced or no alcohol consumption
- Reduced caffeine intake
- Low sugar intake
- Less consumption of acidic foods
- Weight reduction
- Increased physical fitness
- Exercises for pelvic floor muscle: The other name for pelvic floor muscles is Kegel exercises. Pelvic floor muscle controls your urine and bowel movements. Kegel exercises will beef up your bladder muscles and reduce involuntary contractions. It helps overcome stress and urge incontinence. The training will squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and strengthen them.
- Electrical stimulation: In this process, the doctor will thrust an electrode up your vagina to fortify and restore the health of your pelvic floor muscles. It can be useful in case of patients suffering from stress or urge incontinence. But the major disadvantage of this process is that a single stimulation treatment will not be adequate to cure you of urinary incontinence. You will need to undergo repeated electrode treatments until it starts to show results.
Medications single-handedly may fail to show results. When incorporated with other treatments, surgeries, and exercises will effectively bring an end to incontinence of urine.
- Anticholinergics to the sedate hyperactive bladder and reduce the possibility of urge continence.
- Alpha-blockers to increase the ‘I’m typing’ potential of the urinary bladder in men. Moreover, it reduces the problem of enlarged prostate and relaxes the lining muscles.
- Mirabegron to help relax the muscular structure surrounding the bladder. It will help your bladder to regain its urine retention capacity and reduce urge incontinence. It will also lead to fewer frequent travels to the bathroom.
- Topics estrogen to increase estrogen levels in women. It is recommended to use it as a vaginal cream instead of taking it in the form of a pill. Use it as a cream to revive and strengthen the tissue lining of the bladder and urethra. The topical treatment of estrogen will promote the overall health of the vagina.
Women can opt for the following medical tools to get relief from incontinence of urine.
- Urethral inserts: Take it out at regular intervals to urinate and put it back on.
- Botox: Botox injections are effective in controlling overactive bladder
- Sacral nerve stimulator: The stimulator is connected to the nerve of your spinal cord that ends in the bladder. It discharges electrodes to stimulate and control the bladder.
- Pessary: A stiff ring gets placed on your vagina to expand the retention capacity of the bladder.
- Radiofrequency therapy: It involves the use of radiofrequency to warm up your urinary tract. Thus, the heat will help to bring back the strength, firmness, and elasticity of the bladder.
Surgeries can have side-effects and should be looked upon as a last resort to treat urinary incontinence.
- Sling procedures: A mesh is placed to hold up the bladder and stop leakages of urine.
- Artificial sphincter: An artificial valve may be introduced to check a check on the urine flow.
- Colposuspension: It will hold up the neck of the bladder to reduce urinary incontinence.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Regular exercise to maintain weight
- Do pelvic floor exercise
- Avoid alcohol, sugary and acidic foods
- Stay away from smoking
- Eat fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation
Incontinence of urine is curable if you go for diagnosis and seek medical help. Thus, it would help if you tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle and do preventive measures to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence.