Whether it’s brought on by a good laugh, a strong cough, or just an overpowering urge to go, accidental urine leakage can be a frustrating – and sometimes embarrassing – experience. Those feelings of shame hold many women back from speaking up, but you don’t have to suffer in silence - urinary incontinence is a very common and highly treatable issue.
Most cases can be improved or resolved with guided lifestyle changes and/or medical treatment. Your social, emotional, and physical well-being are worth it – partnering with a compassionate provider will put you on the path towards taking back your control.
A Manageable, And Often Curable, Symptom
By definition, urinary incontinence is not a disease or condition – it’s a result of changes to your body that can be caused by pregnancy, childbirth, aging, obesity, weakened pelvic muscles, and urinary tract infections. Incontinence may begin at any age, and the amount of leakage may range from a few drops to a complete emptying of your bladder.
Types and Symptoms of Incontinence
Stress Incontinence – This most common type is usually triggered by physical movement – laughing, coughing, sneezing, exercising, lifting, or having sex.
Urge Incontinence – Often referred to as ‘overactive bladder’, this type usually involves a sudden, strong urge to urinate and/or very frequent urination.
Mixed Incontinence – It’s possible to have symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence. And you may experience leakage and/or full emptying of the bladder.
Functional – Despite having normal bladder function, other medical conditions like arthritis or neurological disorders may limit your ability to reach the restroom in time.
Diagnosis Guides Treatment
While it can sometimes feel uncomfortable to discuss this topic, the first step to managing urine leakage is partnering with your provider to identify both the type and cause of your incontinence.
The path to diagnosis may include:
- A Bladder Diary: In order to help reveal incontinence patterns and causes, your provider may ask you to track fluid intake, how often you urinate, and the circumstances of the leakage.
- A Physical Exam: Your provider will perform a pelvic exam to test muscle strength and a rectal exam to feel for blockages.
- A Urine Test: This common lab test will look for traces of blood and signs of infection.
- Urodynamics testing: These out-patient tests are most often performed by inserting a small catheter or by using an ultrasound in order to assess how well your bladder, urethra, and sphincters are able to store and release urine. Urodynamics provides critical information for your provider and can be easily accessed at many of our Seven Hills neighborhood health centers.
Once your Seven Hills provider pinpoints the cause of your incontinence, they will tailor a plan of care that may include some of the following treatments:
- Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy: The therapist will use massage like techniques to stretch and strengthen your pelvic muscles, and you may be given exercises to complete at home.
- Bladder Training: By learning and implementing behavioral techniques, you will gradually train your mind and your bladder to empty on a more routine schedule.
- Medication: Prescription drugs and creams can reduce bladder contractions and rejuvenate damaged tissue.
- Supportive Devices: An over-the-counter option, a small tampon-like device can be inserted and removed daily to support the urethra and reduce leakage.
- Surgery: For those who haven’t responded to other treatments, surgery can bring a longer-term solution. It is, however, more invasive and doesn’t come without some risk.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Leakage
- Maintain a healthy weight – extra abdominal fat can put pressure on the pelvic floor, and it’s been shown that a loss of even a few pounds helps reduce urine leakage.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol – both substances cause your body to produce excess urine.
- Eat enough fiber – it helps avoid constipation, which tends to put extra pressure on your bladder.
- Seek support to stop smoking – the chemicals in cigarettes not only increase your risk for bladder cancer, they can irritate your bladder and cause it to contract too often.
- Don’t get dehydrated – it may seem counterintuitive to drink more water, but overly concentrated urine can irritate your bladder and make incontinence worse.
- Manage the timing of your fluid intake – drinking less when you won’t be near a restroom or when it’s just before bedtime will help prevent both leakage and accidents.
At Seven Hills, you’re at the center of your healthcare. Our providers empower patients to access and implement personalized care that brings your wellness back into balance.