Urinary continence is a very common condition commonly thought to affect women only. In fact, it affects millions of people worldwide and is equally common in men. Urinary incontinence is an involuntary loss or uncontrollable leakage of urine and it can happen for different reasons.
There are many kinds of incontinence. The most common ones are urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
Also referred to as overactive bladder is a strong and persistent urge to urinate, even when the bladder is not full. This typically leads to frequent urination, especially during the night.
It’s important to have your bladder checked by a urologist if you have these symptoms. Left unchecked, it may lead to urinary tract infections.
Oftentimes overactive bladder symptoms can be seen in cases of enlarged prostates. Sometimes people can have problems with the nerve supply to their bladder. Health conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease can also exhibit these kinds of overactive bladder symptoms.
On rare occasions, people can have abnormalities inside the bladder, such as cancers or stones, which can trigger these symptoms.
This occurs as a result of pressure on the bladder. It is caused by weakened muscles around the urethra. Certain movements or physical activities such as coughing, laughing, or sneezing can result in leakage of urine.
This can develop during pregnancy when a growing baby puts tremendous pressure on the bladder and causes stress incontinence in some women.
There are many things that can contribute to incontinence. As we age, the pelvic floor muscles become weak increasing the risk of urine leakage or the inability to completely empty your bladder.
Being overweight puts you at a greater chance of developing stress incontinence due to excessive pressure on the pelvic and abdominal organs.
In women, weakness in the pelvic floor muscles can be a result of pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, the menstrual cycle, or reduced estrogen levels (resulting in reduced muscular pressure).
The majority of women who experience incontinence during pregnancy notice that it disappears within weeks following delivery.
For men, urinary incontinence is often related to prostate problems. It can also result from post-surgical complications in the prostate or urinary tract.
Having either an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer can lead to symptoms of urine leakage when coughing, laughing, sneezing, or exercising.
Procedures such as prostatectomy or hysterectomy can damage the nerves and ultimately lead to urinary incontinence.
Other Forms of Urinary Incontinence
Overflow incontinence: This occurs when a person is unable to completely empty their bladder when they urinate. As new urine is produced there is an overflow due to a full bladder. This condition can also be accompanied by frequent urinary tract infections and night urination.
The most common causes are nerve damage, weak bladder muscles, and blockages of the urethra. Men who have prostate issues or have had prostate surgery are more likely to experience overflow incontinence than women.
Mixed incontinence: This means you exhibit more than one type of incontinence. In most cases, urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
Functional incontinence: This occurs when an issue unconnected to the bladder causes you to have accidents.
In particular, you’re either unaware that you need to go, or maybe physically incapable to get to the bathroom in time.
It usually affects elderly or disabled people and can be a side effect of mobility limitations, mental illness, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.
Urge Incontinence or Overactive Bladder
There are several ways to treat an overactive bladder ranging from lifestyle adjustments, medications, and nerve stimulation, to surgery. Lifestyle treatments include performing Kegel exercises, losing excess fat or weight, and bladder training.
Bladder training would involve a detailed assessment of what type of fluids you drink, how often you drink, and the frequency you drink throughout the day.
Routine modifications would then have to be made to reduce your risks of frequency and urgency to urinate.
Typically, alcohol and caffeine can increase your risk of overactive bladder symptoms. Therefore, reducing these can make a substantial difference in your symptoms.
Then there are a number of medications that can be prescribed by a medical doctor to help relax the bladder to reduce urge incontinence. Bladder injections, nerve stimulation techniques, and surgery are alternate treatment options.
Seeking medical treatment to help address stress incontinence is equally as important as seeking treatment for an overactive bladder. Stress incontinence treatments typically focus on strengthening the external sphincter muscle by doing things like Kegel exercises.
How to perform Kegel Exercises:
In order to do the exercises correctly, you must first identify your pelvic floor muscles. This is done by stopping the flow of urine midstream. You should be able to feel the muscles contract. This exercise is only to familiarize yourself with the proper technique and is not to be done as a regular practice.
Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles you may do them lying down or standing up. Make sure your bladder is empty. Try to imagine you are wearing a tampon and tighten your pelvic muscles as if to pull it up. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds then release for 5 seconds.
Aim for 10 repetitions, 3 times per day. Within 4 to 6 weeks your symptoms should be improved.
To make the Kegel exercises more effective, a technique called biofeedback can be used. Biofeedback involves the use of electrical sensors to develop proper muscle contractions. The following devices fall under this category.
Featured Incontinence Solutions:
Tightra Feminine Wellness Device (Canada)
vFIT Pelvic Floor Toning Therapy (Canada)
vFIT Pelvic Floor Toning Therapy (US)
Tenscare PFE MEN Pelvic Floor Exerciser (US)
Tenscare PFE WOMEN Pelvic Floor Exerciser (US)
Pelvic Floor Training System (US & Canada)
Treatments for overflow incontinence include catheters to allow the bladder to empty completely. Certain medications can also be used to allow for better urine flow or to shrink the prostate in order to relieve the pressure on the urethra.
In the case of an enlarged prostate, surgery can be performed to remove the obstruction. Both men and women could benefit from the use of catheters or surgery, however, medications are mainly utilized in men.
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine from the bladder and is highly treatable. It affects both men and women and is not life-threatening but it can be life-altering.
Treatments range widely from behavioral therapies which include Kegel exercises, healthy living, bladder training, and fluid consumption, in addition to medications, devices, and also surgery.
There are certain lifestyle practices that can ease the symptoms of incontinence. Smoking can make incontinence worse, as well as being overweight so these are two key areas to address. It’s also a good idea to limit caffeine consumption as it irritates your bladder.
Although there is a higher incidence of incontinence in older adults, it is not considered a normal part of aging. The treatments available can usually cure or significantly reduce the effects of stress incontinence on your life.
If you suspect you have a bladder condition, seek help from a qualified healthcare provider. Based on the severity of your condition, your doctor can provide a treatment plan to help you cope with this condition so it doesn’t interfere with your daily routine.