What Causes Urinary Incontinence in Women?

Are you suffering from random leaks without any warning or notice? Are you having trouble getting to the bathroom quickly enough? Do you have sudden urges to go causing you to panic? If you experience one or all of these symptoms, you are not alone. Almost half of older women experience urinary incontinence at some point in their lives.

Being unable to hold your urine can be an embarrassing and frustrating experience. While many treatment options are available for women, including medication, exercise, and specific lifestyle changes, urinary incontinence cases can still occur due to ageing. Therefore, it is crucial to identify the cause and type of urinary incontinence to ensure better treatment outcomes for women.

Stress incontinence

Of all the different types of incontinence, stress incontinence is the most common among women across various age groups. Certain activities or physical movements may cause you to leak urine. For example, typical actions such as laughing, coughing, and sneezing may place pressure on your bladder, resulting in the sudden release of urine. It may also happen when you engage in bending, lifting, dancing, and running activities. A common cause of stress incontinence is the weakening of the pelvic muscles.

Overactive bladder

Also called urgency incontinence, an overactive bladder is characterised by a strong urge to pee with the failure to reach the toilet in time. An overactive bladder is usually caused by nerve and muscle problems connected to the bladder.

Mixed incontinence

As the name implies, mixed incontinence is caused by two or more issues. Most women with mixed incontinence suffer from overactive bladder and stress incontinence.

Overflow incontinence

In the case of overflow incontinence, the bladder does not empty completely during urination. As a result, the bladder becomes full faster, resulting in leaking between regular bathroom breaks. Frequency in urination is a common symptom of overflow incontinence.

Diagnosing urinary incontinence

There are many ways to diagnose urinary incontinence in women. A physician may order several tests during an appointment to diagnose the specific type of incontinence you may be suffering from. The usual laboratory procedures for diagnosing urinary incontinence include imaging tests, bladder function tests, cystograms, pelvic ultrasound, and urodynamic testing. Your lifestyle choices, family health history, and medications also help physicians determine whether you are more likely to develop urinary incontinence.

Urinary incontinence treatment and management

Here are a few ways on how women can effectively manage and treat urinary incontinence:

Bladder training and Kegel’s exercises

Performing Kegel’s and bladder training exercises will help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and reduce the incidence of urinary incontinence. It will also help prolong the time between trips to the bathroom. These workouts are done by holding, lifting, and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. Unlike other types of traditional exercises, you can perform bladder training and Kegel’s exercises anytime, anywhere. You can do this at least twice a day for best results.

Weight loss

Weight loss will reduce urinary leakage among individuals suffering from an overactive bladder. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women who lost an average of two per cent of their total body weight reported a 28 per cent reduction in incontinence episodes. With successful weight loss, the abdominal muscles put less pressure on the bladder, which helps strengthen the pelvic muscles.

Smoking cessation

Numerous studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop urinary incontinence than non-smokers. Thus, an effective way to reduce or eliminate urinary incontinence among smokers is to quit smoking altogether. You can seek the assistance of support groups, or other pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic aids, that can help you manage the side effects of tobacco withdrawal.

Manage water intake

A healthcare professional can help you determine the amount of liquid you should drink to manage urinary incontinence. However, it is recommended not to limit liquid intake to the point of dehydration. Your doctor will prescribe the amount of water to drink based on the severity of your urinary incontinence and other factors, including daily activities and local climate. It is also ideal to limit the intake of caffeinated beverages, including coffee, chocolate, tea, and carbonated drinks, to reduce accidental leakage and trips to the bathroom at night.

Be more physically active

While you may not feel like constantly moving when you have urinary incontinence, regular exercises are crucial to achieving your ideal weight. A healthy weight can alleviate the symptoms of urinary incontinence. You can engage in simple yet effective physical activities such as walking, biking, jogging, swimming, and dancing to improve your general sense of health and wellness. Before starting a workout, it is imperative to empty the bladder to avoid leakage.

Use of adult pull-ups

Adult pull-ups are designed to help individuals manage urinary incontinence. They are lightweight, discreet, and dermatologically tested to keep your skin dry and healthy all day long. Pull-ups come in a wide range of absorbency levels, so you don’t have to worry about frequent changes throughout the day. Additionally, pull-ups are designed with the anatomy and needs of both genders in mind. They remain snug and fit, so you can go about your day without worrying about leaking. Pull-ups were developed to deliver a higher level of security than traditional adult diapers.

Prescription medications

There are a few medications that can reduce the symptoms of urinary incontinence. Some drugs significantly reduce muscle contractions among patients with overactive bladder. Some doctors may also prescribe medications that will relax the muscles, allowing complete emptying of the bladder. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy is prescribed to compensate for the reduced production of estrogen during menopause. Hormone replacement therapy can restore normal bladder function over time. It is best to seek the help of your healthcare provider to determine the correct type of medication to restore normal bladder function.

Final thoughts

Urinary incontinence in women can be managed with proper diagnosis and the right treatment plan developed by a skilled physician. There is a good prognosis for mild forms of urinary incontinence that the condition may be reversed altogether. For the elderly, many incontinence aids can manage sudden urinary leakage, including adult diapers and pull-ups, to name a few.

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