Experts estimate that about half of all adult women experience urinary incontinence. However, many of them never seek treatment because they fear stigma and may be uncomfortable in broaching the topic with their doctor.
The anatomy involved
You may not have given much thought as to why or how urinary incontinence happens; more likely you just want it to stop!
When your bladder is empty, it’s relaxed. As it fills, signals from your brain alert you. Once your bladder is full, you know to go to the bathroom. When everything is working properly, you can hold your urine for a while.
There’s a muscle called the urethral sphincter that squeezes tight to keep urine in, and it relaxes to let it out. Your bladder contracts as the urethral sphincter relaxes, and the urine flows out. When you have urinary incontinence, there’s a problem somewhere in this system.
There are two basic types of incontinence: stress and urgency.
Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary leaking. If you leak a bit of urine when you cough or sneeze — or do any number of other things that put stress on your urinary tract — you are most likely experiencing stress incontinence.
The most common reason for stress incontinence is weak pelvic floor muscles. These important muscles hold your pelvic organs in place, but if they weaken, they may not be able to properly support your bladder or urethra. Having given birth vaginally doubles your risk of developing stress incontinence.
Sometimes, your bladder may be a little too sensitive, leading to a condition called overactive bladder. If you have to go to the bathroom often, and feel an urgent need to go, you may have an overactive bladder. If you don’t quite make it to the bathroom in time, you may leak some urine, and that is called urge incontinence.
Your risk of developing urge incontinence increases with age. It’s also entirely possible to have both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
Treatment for incontinence
As with any health concern, the most appropriate treatment for you has to do with numerous factors. Your age, the type(s) of incontinence you’re experiencing, your medical history, and many other factors are important in your treatment.
Your doctor may want you to take certain diagnostic tests to help determine what type of treatment is most likely to work for you. The amount of urine that stays in your bladder, how it flows, and the amount of pressure in your bladder are all important elements.
Some of the more common treatments for urinary incontinence include:
- Exercises that improve the strength of your pelvic floor muscles
- Training your bladder so that you can hold more urine
- Medications to relax the proper muscles at the proper times
- A device called a pessary that can block leakage
- Injections to partly block your urethra
Your doctor may suggest some combination of treatment approaches or may suggest beginning with one and then moving to a different one if necessary. Your treatment is based on your health, needs, and overall circumstances.
If you’d like to learn more about urinary incontinence and the methods we use at Advanced Women’s Healthcare to treat it, book an appointment today. We’re happy to answer your questions and evaluate your situation. You can call us at 309-808-3068 to schedule.