Urinary incontinence refers to a loss of bladder control. This can include leaking urine, or a strong or sudden urge to urinate. Weak muscles in the urinary tract can cause incontinence, which is why it becomes more common as we age. Drinking too much fluid or nerve problems can also cause incontinence.
The two most common types of incontinence are stress incontinence and overactive bladder or urge incontinence. Stress incontinence refers to leaking urine when you laugh, sneeze, cough, run or lift a heavy object. Urge incontinence is also known as overactive bladder. This is when you have a strong urge to urinate even if you don't have much urine in your bladder.
Women are twice as likely as men to experience incontinence. It can cause a woman to leak small amounts of urine once in a while or wet their clothing on a regular basis. While it's an embarrassing topic for many women to discuss, it's important to remember that incontinence is a common problem affecting millions of people—and that there are many treatment options.
The time to see a doctor for incontinence is when it starts to affect your daily life. There are many lifestyle changes and medications that can ease your symptoms or help you control your bladder. These include training yourself to make bathroom trips at certain times of the day, or "bladder training." Other tips include making dietary changes and avoiding drinks with caffeine and alcohol.
A doctor may also advise pelvic exercises, medications, medical devices or injections to relieve symptoms and ease discomfort. When other therapies do not work and symptoms are more severe, a urologist may suggest surgery.
St. Mary has a Pelvic Floor Therapy program that can help patients to effectively manage incontinence and pelvic pain, especially following surgery.