More than half of women in the U.S. will experience loss of bladder control, or urinary incontinence, in their lifetime, with one in five living with moderate to severe urinary incontinence.
This holds true even for young women, with 1 in 3 women in their twenties experiencing incontinence. For women 70 and older, the rate doubles to 2 in 3 women. Overall, 200 million people are affected by involuntary loss of urine.
Urinary incontinence can range from small leaks related to activities like laughing, coughing or sneezing, to failure to make it to the toilet in time. Effects on lifestyle, self-confidence and overall activity can vary as well.
Pregnancy and childbirth are the most common causes of urinary incontinence in women, since vaginal delivery can tear pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, damaging bladder nerves and connective tissue. Symptoms can grow worse over time, as increasing age, combined with hormone fluctuations, tend to weaken bladder and urethral tissue.
Fortunately, modern medicine provides a range of treatment options to alleviate or improve incontinence in around 80% of individuals who suffer from it.
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What are the Types of Urinary Incontinence.
Determining the most appropriate treatment option will depend, in part, on the type of urinary incontinence a patient experiences:
- Stress incontinence.
Stress incontinence, caused by physical stress to the pelvic floor, occurs when an activity such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercise or heavy lifting puts pressure on the bladder, causing urine to leak. This is most common in older women and those who have recently given birth.
- Urge incontinence.
Urge incontinence, also known as Overactive Bladder, describes the strong urge to urinate, immediately followed by an involuntary loss of urine. Frequent urination is common, and many women with this diagnosis wake up to urinate 6 or more times each night. Urge incontinence can be caused by a small ailment, such as an infection, or a more serious ailment, such as bladder cancer or spinal cord injury.
- Overflow incontinence.
Overflow incontinence causes persistent dribbling of urine when the bladder doesn’t completely empty.
- Functional incontinence.
Functional incontinence describes urinary leakage due to something preventing timely arrival to the toilet. For example, women with severe arthritis may not be able to unbutton their jeans in time to avoid an accident. Physical and mental handicaps may cause functional incontinence.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence can be caused numerous factors, many of which are out of our control.
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Pelvic surgery
- Muscles problems in the bladder and urethra
- Weakened pelvic floor muscles or a weak sphincter muscle at the bladder’s neck
- Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus
Can I Treat Urinary Incontinence at Home?
There are several ways that women can help treat and improve urinary incontinence symptoms on their own. While these may not completely relieve symptoms, we recommend the following at-home measures to improve pelvic floor strength:
- Behavioral and lifestyle modifications are the simplest methods to treat urinary incontinence at home and halt leaking that is within your control. This may involve emptying the bladder more often to avoid a very full bladder or avoiding caffeine, alcohol, or spicy food, which can all trigger urge incontinence.
- A bladder diary is a standard approach used in both research and clinical practice to examine the frequency and features of your incontinence episodes. A bladder diary helps discern the amount of fluids ingested, which foods or drinks may worsen symptoms and what time of day symptoms occur.
- Reduce fluid intake, especially within 3 hours before you go to bed.
- Avoid activities that put pressure on your bladder such as jumping or jogging in favor of low-impact activities.
- Maintain a healthy weight, because obesity places additional pressure on the bladder and damages urethral structures as well as the pelvic floor.
- Consume fiber to prevent constipation, which may exacerbate urinary incontinence.
- Quit smoking and vaping, which can cause a chronic cough that damages the pelvic floor.
- Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages including coffee, energy drinks, teas and sodas.
Dr. Brady takes a personalized approach to non-surgical urinary incontinence therapy, creating individualized treatment plans based on each patient’s physiology, medical history and unique circumstances. To schedule a personal consultation, please fill out the form below, or call us at 214-544-9146 today.