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Understanding Urinary Incontinence in Women

What is Urinary Incontinence in women?

Urinary Incontinence in women is the involuntary loss of urine which can also be called ‘UI’. Urinary Incontinence is generally more common in women than in men, with a ratio of 1 out of 4 in women and 1 out of 8 in men. Contrary to popular opinion, bladder weakness is not restricted to the elderly and can affect anyone at any age.

UI is a medical problem that is fairly common. It occurs because of problems with muscles and nerves that help to hold or release urine. Some women may experience the symptoms of UI through loss of afew drops of urine while running or coughing, and others may feel a strong and sudden urge to urinate just before losing a large amount of urine. UI can be bothersome and cause public embarrassment to some women that can keep them from enjoying simple daily activities. Urine loss can also occur during sexual activity and cause tremendous emotional distress. If you are experiencing UI, your doctor or nurse can help you to find a solution. No single treatment works for everyone.

Why is this happening to me?

Incontinence problems usually occur because of problems with the nerves and muscles that hold or release the urine. Our bodies store urine in the bladder which connects to the urethra, the tube through which urine leaves the body. During urination, the bladder muscles contract and force urine out of the bladder and into the urethra. While this is happening, the sphincter muscles surrounding the urethra relax and let the urine pass out of the body. Incontinence occurs when the bladder muscles suddenly contract or the sphincter muscles are not strong enough to hold back the urine.

Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract all add to the reasons why women usually experience Urinary Incontinence more than men do. However, both men and women can become incontinent from neurologic injuries, birth defects, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other physical problems that are associated with aging. Older women tend to experience Urinary Incontinence more than younger women do, but it is not inevitable that a person will have problems with incontinence just because they have aged. Obesity can also be the cause of Urinary Incontinence as being overweight causes increased abdominal pressure.

What are some types of Urinary Incontinence in women and what are the symptoms?

There are many different types of Urinary Incontinence in women. Some of these are stress incontinence, urge incontinence, overactive bladder, functional incontinence, overflow incontinence, mixed incontinence, and transient incontinence.

  • Stress Urinary Incontinence: characterised by urine leakage in small amount during activities like coughing, sneezing, and lifting that increase abdominal pressure. It is usually the cause of a loss of support of the urethra which is usually the consequence of damage to the pelvic support structures during childbirth.
  • Urge Urinary Incontinence: characterised by leaking large amounts of urine at unexpected times (without sufficient warning to reach the bathroom in time). This is usually caused by uninhibited contractions of the detrusor muscle and happens a lot during sleep.
  • Overactive Bladder: Urinary frequency and urgency, with or without urge incontinence.
  • Functional Incontinence: Untimely urination because of physical disability, external obstacles, or problems in thinking or communicating that prevent the person from reaching the toilet in time.
  • Overflow Incontinence: Unexpected leakage of small amounts of urine caused by a full bladder.
  • Mixed Incontinence: A combination of Stress Incontinence and Urge Incontinence together.
  • Transient Incontinence: Leakage that occurs temporarily because of a situation that will pass. These might be infection, taking a new medication, colds, and coughing. Stress Urinary Incontinence and Urge Urinary Incontinence are the most common. It is common for a person with Urinary Incontinence to experience a combination of these symptoms at a time.

What should I next?

If you’re starting to show signs that you may have Urinary Incontinence, the first thing we advise you to do is to visit your urologist and get his advice. A urologist specializes in urinary problems that are associated with pelvic problems in women, and some urologists further specialise in the female urinary tract. Some nurses and other healthcare providers may even be able to help you through providing rehabilitation services and teaching you therapies such as fluid management and pelvic floor strengthening. Your doctor may suggest behavioural remedies like bladder retraining and kegel exercises or he may suggest medicines for an overactive bladder or biofeedback.

Although Urinary Incontinence can be an embarrassing condition, it is best to discuss it in full with your doctor, that way you can learn how to treat it and be cured. Many women are afraid to mention their problem and prefer instead to rely solely on disposable diapers and pads, but don’t be afraid to talk it out. You’re certainly not alone. Minor urinary leakage is very common in women, and it’s best if you can catch the problem and treat it early on. Healthcare professionals will usually follow the least invasive method in improving bladder weakness. This might be done through lifestyle changes, physiotherapy exercises, and medical advice. However, if these fail to work, your specialist may consider whether a more invasive treatment, such as medication or surgery, is required.

The next step after seeking advice from a urologist is not let Incontinence interfere with or hinder your daily activities. It can be hard to enjoy life if you go out and can’t relax without worrying about the possible smell of urine, the leaks that might be showing through your clothing, or feeling the urge to track down the nearest bathroom. Life doesn’t have to be that way.

Incontinence protection pads are a good way to provide yourself with bladder weakness protection so that there is no need to cut back on pleasurable activities. You don’t need to worry about cancelling family picnics, or signing off playing golf. With the right lifestyle changes you can get the protection you need so that you can feel comfortable to socialise, exercise, and carry out your usual daily activities with confidence.