Female incontinence, also known as urinary incontinence, is an embarrassing problem that can be cured. Despite the availability of treatment, some women are afraid to discuss the condition because of the stigma that surrounds it.
Women experience this problem twice as often as men because of pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and the way the female urinary tract is structured. Out of the 25 million people in America that have urinary incontinence, between 75% and 80% of them are women.
One in four women over age 18 will experience episodes of involuntary leaking urine. Around 200 million people around the world are affected by urinary incontinence.
Despite the large number of people who deal with it, it’s still a taboo issue for many. Women wait an average of 6.5 years after they notice symptoms to talk to a doctor.
Complete Women’s Healthcare wants to shed light on this common problem and encourage more women to get help sooner.
Common Types of Urinary Incontinence
Most cases of urinary incontinence fall into one of two categories. These include stress and urge related incontinence. Some patients may also experience temporary urinary incontinence due to diet, medical, or lifestyle factors.
- What Is Urge Incontinence?
Urge incontinence means that the patient feels an urgent need to relieve themselves and then does so involuntarily. This can be the result of an overactive bladder or OAB. The sphincters control the flow of urine from the bladder. In cases of OAB, the bladder contracts and overrides the sphincter muscles, allowing urine to escape.
The causes of urge incontinence can vary from a minor infection to diabetes or a severe neurological disorder.
- What Is Stress Incontinence?
Stress incontinence happens when a sneeze, cough, or other activity applies abdominal pressure on the bladder. This motion causes urine to leak out. This can occur due to weakened sphincter or pelvic floor muscles or if there are problems with how the sphincter opens and closes.
This type of female incontinence is more common in people who have given birth.
- What is Temporary Urinary Incontinence?
This version of female incontinence isn’t permanent and can be caused by everyday habits. Diets that include excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, chili peppers, carbonated beverages, and foods that are high in acid, spice, or sugar can cause temporary urinary incontinence.
Other causes can include the use of sedatives, muscle relaxants, and heart and blood pressure medications. Patients may also experience temporary incontinence due to constipation or when a urinary tract infection is present.
The Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence in Women
While the two types are very similar, there is a minor difference. In urge incontinence, you will feel the sudden need to urinate followed by a loss of control. This can happen at inappropriate times, like while in public or while asleep.
Those who experience urinary leakage while doing certain activities may be showing signs of stress incontinence. This can occur while coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, exercising, bending over, or having intercourse.
It is important to remember that stress incontinence may not occur every time you do these or similar activities. Even if it isn’t happening every time, you should still seek medical advice.
Urinary Incontinence Risk Factors
Several factors can increase your risk of urinary incontinence. They include:
- Age-Related Muscle Weakness
As we grow older, our muscles tend to become weaker. Older people are more likely to experience urinary incontinence for this reason. While age is a factor, the condition can appear at any point in a person’s life.
- Vaginal Childbirth
Vaginal childbirth increases the risk of urinary incontinence compared to those who have had a cesarean section. Undergoing a faster forceps delivery can further increase the risk. Women who have had a vacuum-assisted delivery have not shown an elevated risk of incontinence.
- Body Weight
Stress incontinence can be caused by obesity. Being overweight puts pressure on the abdominal and pelvic organs, increasing the chances of involuntary leakage.
- Surgical History
Women who have had a hysterectomy may be more likely to experience urinary incontinence. This occurs due to weakened muscles that support the urethra and bladder.
How to Treat Urinary Incontinence
Most doctors will start with less invasive treatment methods.
One option is pelvic muscle therapy. This process targets muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues in the pelvic floor. The goal is to strengthen the muscles to alleviate symptoms.
When going this route, your doctor will need to know your surgical, medical, and sexual history. They will perform an orthopedic exam, focusing on the spine, hips, posture, and gait. This will allow them to create a treatment plan for you.
Pelvic muscle therapy is usually hands-on and can involve strengthening trunk, leg, or pelvic muscles as well as biofeedback, and relaxation and coordination exercises. Internal or external sensors are used to read electrical activity in the muscles.
If less invasive methods do not work, your doctor may recommend medications, a medical device, or interventional therapies. Medications include anticholinergics, alpha blockers, or topical estrogen. A urethral insert or pessary may be used or you may be prescribed injections or nerve stimulators.
Surgery that addresses the cause of the problem may be needed. This can include sling procedures, bladder neck suspension, or prolapse surgery.
Should I Seek Treatment for Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence itself isn’t life-threatening, but it can indicate an underlying problem.
If involuntary leakage is negatively affecting your life and causing you to withdraw, avoid social gatherings, or experience depression, then you should seek help. You don’t have to continue to live with this condition.
Complete Women’s Healthcare can provide advice and treatment options. Contact us now to schedule an appointment for female incontinence.