Urinary incontinence, also known as loss of bladder control, is a condition that causes problems for millions of people around the world. Although it is often thought that it happens among older people, that is not the case; people of all ages can get affected. It can cause embarrassment and anxiety and impact the overall quality of someone’s life. Urinary incontinence happens when the muscles that normally control the urine flow weaken or get damaged, resulting in leakage or complete loss of control. This condition has several types, including stress incontinence, urge incontinence, and mixed incontinence.
Living with a loss of bladder control can be challenging and stressful. Fortunately, our gynecologist in Sarasota, FL, is here for you. Feel free to visit us at University Park OBGYN if you are in the area, and let our caring and compassionate staff take care of your problems. You are not alone. Now, keep reading to find out all about urinary incontinence causes and treatment options.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is a unique condition, and therefore, everyone displays different signs. There are several types of it, each with its own causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Understanding the differences between these types is essential in order to find the correct treatment for your individual requirements. The following are the most common types of urinary incontinence:
- Stress incontinence: When it comes to loss of bladder control, this is the most common type. It happens when something puts pressure on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy objects. It is often caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles. Fortunately, that condition is treatable with the help of pelvic floor exercises or Kegels. In some rare cases, surgery is necessary to repair the bladder and support the muscles.
- Urge incontinence: If you have a sudden and intense urge to urinate, you might be experiencing urge incontinence. However, even a minor infection, such as a urinary tract infection, can trigger this issue. Also known as overactive bladder, this problem occurs after nerve damage or muscle contraction in the bladder. It can be followed by involuntary leakage. Treatment for this type of incontinence usually includes a combination of medications, pelvic floor exercises, and nerve stimulation.
- Overflow incontinence: You might have this one if you feel like your bladder cannot empty properly, leading to constant leakage or dribbling. It is usually caused by an obstruction or blockage in the tract, nerve damage, or weakened bladder muscles. Treatment for overflow incontinence may include medications, catheterization, and in some cases, surgery.
- Functional incontinence: This happens when a person normally controls their bladder, but other physical or cognitive impairments make it difficult to reach the bathroom in time. Functional loss of bladder control is usually seen in older adults with certain health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors recommend modifying the environment to reduce any obstacles, providing assistance with mobility and helping them in the toilet, and treating the root cause of the problem.
- Mixed incontinence: This is a combination of any of the urinary incontinence types mentioned above. For example, you may experience both stress and overflow incontinence. Treatment will depend on your type and the symptoms’ severity.
Not everyone will experience the same symptoms; they depend on the type and severity of the condition. The most common ones include involuntary leakage of urine, which can occur during activities that put pressure on the bladder and pelvic muscles, such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, or lifting something heavy. Some people also experience an urge to urinate all of a sudden and may not make it to the bathroom in time. Other signs include frequent urination, urinary tract infections, and difficulty emptying the bladder.
There are several urinary incontinence causes, and understanding the underlying factors can help set the right diagnosis and find the right treatment. They include:
- Weak pelvic floor muscles: This is the most common reason for loss of bladder control, especially stress incontinence. Muscles in this area support the bladder and urethra; if they are weakened, they can cause urine leakage when pressure is applied to the bladder.
- Nerve damage: Trauma to the nerves can also contribute to urinary incontinence. If the nerves that control the bladder are damaged, the bladder function will start to decrease, which means it will not be able to control the urine flow normally. Conditions that can damage the nerves are Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries.
- Problems with bladder: Several bladder problems can contribute to this health issue. Infections, inflammation, and certain tumors can all affect its function and lead to loss of bladder control. Also, an overactive bladder or its obstruction can cause urge or overflow incontinence.
- Hormonal changes: Shifts in hormones, such as those that happen in menopause, can also create problems. As estrogen in the body drops, the tissues in the urinary tract start getting thinner and weaker, making it hard for a woman to control her bladder.
- Certain medications: Some meds can cause urinary incontinence as a side effect, including diuretics, sedatives, and alpha-blockers.
You might be more prone to losing control of your bladder function if you are obese, diabetic, or have a severe case of chronic coughing. Therefore, visit your doctor and discuss your concerns or symptoms if you notice any.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing urinary incontinence involves thoroughly reviewing the patient’s medical history and symptoms. After that, a doctor will perform a physical exam and advise if additional tests like bladder scans are needed.
Urinary incontinence treatment depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the type. For milder cases, pelvic floor exercises can effectively strengthen the bladder muscles and improve their control. In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as limiting fluid intake, scheduling bathroom breaks, or using pads or adult diapers, can help a lot. For more severe cases, doctors usually prescribe medications to relax the bladder and increase its sensitivity. Some can even help tighten the muscles that control the flow of urine. Sometimes, surgery is recommended to correct an underlying issue with the structure of the bladder or to implant a small device that will control its function.
It is important to remember that although urinary incontinence is disheartening and challenging, it is treatable. Seeking medical attention as soon as you notice the symptoms is crucial to get the proper diagnosis and treatment plan that can help improve muscle control and restore a standard quality of life.
The Bottom Line
Loss of bladder control is a common condition that affects people of all ages and genders. Urinary incontinence causes can vary and usually include nerve damage, problems with the bladder, weakened pelvic floor muscles, hormonal shifts, certain medications, and other health issues. Everyone has different symptoms depending on the type, such as urine leakage, sudden urges to go to the bathroom, and frequent urination. Urinary incontinence treatment is a combination of pelvic floor exercises, lifestyle changes, and medication, which can drastically improve your life and make your bathroom visits normal again.
That said, don’t hesitate to pay us a visit at University Park OBGYN if you happen to notice anything unusual about your bathroom habits.