By Anvita Sinha
Deaconess Clinic Urologist
Deaconess Health Systems
Urinary incontinence is a very common issue, affecting as many as one in three women at some point. Urinary (or bladder) incontinence happens when you are not able to keep urine from leaking out of your urethra (the tube that carries urine out of your body from your bladder).
The most common types or urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Stress urinary incontinence is when you leak with any kind of activity, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, running, jumping, etc. It’s the kind that makes you “brace yourself” when you feel a sneeze coming on! Urge incontinence is when you have the sudden urge to go to the bathroom, and sometimes “leak” before you can get to the bathroom.
Let’s talk about the causes of these types of incontinence. Stress incontinence has several causes, including:
- Pelvic changes due to pregnancy and childbirth
- Any type of pelvic surgery
- Women who have had jobs that involve a lot of lifting
- Some hereditary factors
- And there are some cases that don’t really seem to have an explanation
Urge incontinence is related to the bladder capacity and can occur at any age, but the incidence increases with age. As we get older, the bladder’s structure alters, and the muscle that makes up the walls of the bladder is less flexible. Urge incontinence can be treated with medication or with a minor procedure.
Stress incontinence is a structural problem with the muscles, ligaments and other supporting structures in the pelvic area that support the bladder and urethra (the tube that urine comes out of). The least invasive treatment for stress incontinence is Kegel exercises. These are exercises you do to deliberately tighten the muscles of the lower pelvic region. There are some medications that aren’t specifically for stress incontinence—antidepressants, actually– but we use their side effects to help treat stress incontinence. We use them at very low dosages, and not at the dosage used for treating depression. There are also a few surgical treatments for stress incontinence.
You don’t have to live with constant interruptions to your life because of your urinary incontinence. Talk to your doctor about what options may be right for you.