Urinary incontinence: It’s more common than you’d think

Learn important facts about bladder leakage

Have you sneezed or laughed and suddenly realised that you might have leaked urine unintentionally? Do you have the urge to go to the washroom often?

If your answer is yes to one or both of the above questions, you might have Urinary Incontinence (UI). UI is the loss of bladder control that affects many people in their everyday life. This simply means that a person urinates involuntarily and this can be embarrassing, especially when you’re in a public place such as the office, shopping malls or even when you’re going for a jog in the park.

Both men and women experience incontinence. Though, the prevalence of incontinence among men is much lower than in women. What’s more is that this condition is very common, especially among older adults.

We’re sure you have questions in regards to this involuntary action and may not know what you should do or where to begin. Well, working with your doctor would be the first ideal step. Secondly, it’s to equip yourself with knowledge. If you would like to know more about the condition before visiting your doctor, you’ve turned to the right page!

Fast facts of UI

As many of us know, urine is made by the kidneys and is stored in the bladder. When you need to urinate, your bladder muscles tighten and urine is forced out through a tube called the urethra. Simultaneously, the sphincter muscles around your urethra relaxes and releases the urine out of the body.

UI occurs when the bladder muscles suddenly tighten and the sphincter muscles aren’t strong enough to close the urethra shut. This then causes a sudden and strong urge to urinate that

you often may not be able to control.

More women than men affected

Women are blessed with the ability to carry a child, give birth and go through menopause. However unique these events are, they are possible causes of Urinary Incontinence.

The Pelvic Floor Muscles that support the bladder, urethra, uterus (womb), and bowels become weaker or damaged as women undergo these changes in their body. This weakens the urinary tract as well as the surrounding muscles easily resulting in urine leakage.

Apart from that, the female urethra is shorter as compared to men’s and this is why this condition is common among women.

Two types

If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s and have not given birth, Urinary Incontinence can still affect you. The more common type of UI, which is Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), is found to be

a more prevalent type of UI among younger women. Here’s some important information to know about SUI:

  • Common among younger women
  • Happens when there is pressure on the bladder
  • Occurs when the Pelvic Floor Muscles are weak
  • Sudden movements and vigorous physical activities can cause urine leakage.

On the other hand, another type of incontinence is Urge Incontinence. Some of the characteristics of Urge Incontinence include:

Common among older women.

  • Common among older women.
  • Urine leakage usually occurs after a strong or sudden urge to urinate even before you can get to the bathroom.
  • As strong as the urge to urinate might be, once they get to the bathroom they do not urinate much.
  • Happens at the most unexpected times such as during sleep, after drinking water or even when you hear running water.

What causes UI?

Apart from pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, some other common causes are:

  • Being overweight can put pressure on your bladder, causing it to leak urine.
  • Anxiety can also trigger incontinence among certain individuals. 
  • Medical conditions such as damage nerves or muscles, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

  • Men who’ve undergone prostate surgery or have an enlarged prostate are more likely to experience UI.

Signs of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is not a disease by itself but it is a symptom that indicates an underlying health issue which usually is weak Pelvic Floor Muscles. In addition to that, some women may have other urinary symptoms such as bedwetting, pressure or cramps in the pelvic area that causes a strong urge to urinate and going to the bathroom more than eight times a day or twice at night.

Prevention of Incontinence

Truly, prevention is better than cure. Some lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent UI at home and continue to do the things you have not been able to enjoy lately includes:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least eight glasses a day)
  • Cutting out unhealthy diet habits like alcohol and caffeine
  • Be physically active and try Pelvic Floor exercises such as Kegel
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating clean (consume high-fibre diet)

If the steps you’ve taken at home aren’t much of a help, seek professional help. Your healthcare professional will suggest other available options such as:

  • Using vaginal creams or topical estrogen patches to help strengthen the muscles and tissues in the urethra and vaginal areas.
  • Vaginal pessary – A small silicone device (shaped like a ring) is inserted into your vagina to support the pelvic floor muscles and help reduce stress incontinence.
  • Bulking agents such as collagens are injected into tissues around the bladder and  urethra to cause them to thicken.
  • Nerve stimulation is a treatment that uses mild electric pulses to stimulate nerves in the bladder and strengthen the muscles that control the bladder.
  • Surgery – However, this isn’t recommended if you plan to get pregnant in the future.

Sources: WebMD, WomensHealth