Urinary incontinence is loss of normal control of the bladder and involuntary loss of urine. Many people with urinary incontinence are embarrassed about their condition. Urinary incontinence in some individuals may be a normal part of growth that disappears naturally over time. However, if it does not disappear, treatment is available and the condition improves when the underlying cause is treated.
Urinary incontinence is more common in women than men. Older women experience urinary incontinence more often than younger women. The probable cause for higher incidence in women can be attributed to pregnancy and childbirth, menopause and the structure of the female urinary tract.
Individuals with urinary incontinence may experience strong, sudden, urgent and uncontrollable need to urinate, frequent urination and also involuntary loss of urine.
Urinary Incontinence may be caused by any of these factors:
- Weak muscles in the lower urinary tract
- Problems either in the urinary tract or in the nerves that control urination
- Physiological status such as pregnancy, childbirth, weight gain or other conditions that stretch pelvic floor muscles
- Overactive bladder muscle
- Urinary tract infection
- Bladder cancer or bladder stones
- Blockage within the urinary tract
- Removal of the uterus (Hysterectomy)
- Neurological disorders
Urinary incontinence can be categorized into five basic types depending on the symptoms:
- Stress Incontinence
- Urge Incontinence
- Overflow Incontinence
- Functional Incontinence
- Mixed Incontinence
Stress Incontinence: Leakage of small amounts of urine during physical movement such as coughing, sneezing, lifting heavy objects, and straining that suddenly increases the pressure within the abdomen.
Urge Incontinence: Leakage of large amounts of urine at unexpected times, including during sleep.
Overflow Incontinence: Uncontrollable leakage of small amounts of urine because of an incompletely emptied bladder.
Functional Incontinence: This refers to urine loss resulting from inability to get to a toilet.
Mixed Incontinence: Mixed incontinence is the presence of two or more types of incontinence in an individual. Most commonly, urge and stress incontinence occur together.
Symptoms remain the mainstay of diagnosis and additional tests may be ordered to identify and confirm the cause for incontinence. These tests include bladder stress test, urine analysis and urine culture, ultrasound diagnosis, cytoscopy and urodynamics.
Treatment depends on the cause, sex and severity of incontinence. Treatment options include medications, injections, vaginal devices and behavioral therapy that include pelvic muscle exercises, bladder retraining, electrical stimulation and catheterization. If these conservative treatment measures fail to treat your condition your physician may recommend surgical procedures such as urethral sling and colposuspension.