Urinary incontinence refers to the unintentional leakage of urine. It’s a common condition that affects millions of people. You may leak urine when you cough, sneeze, exercise, or even just stand up or walk. Some people feel a sudden, intense urge to urinate right before an accident. Others report more of a slow trickle of urine that they can’t control. The amount of leakage can range from a few drops to completely emptying the contents of the bladder. While urinary incontinence can happen at any age, it becomes more common as we get older.
There are several possible causes for urinary incontinence:
Weakened pelvic floor muscles are a major culprit. The pelvic floor muscles support your bladder and urethra. When these muscles are weakened, the bladder and urethra can drop from their normal position, causing stress and leakage during activity. Pregnancy, childbirth, and age can overstretch and weaken pelvic floor muscles.
Nerve damage is another cause, especially damage to the nerves that control the bladder. This damage often occurs after events like childbirth, surgery, stroke, or diseases like multiple sclerosis. The nerves fail to properly tell the bladder muscles to contract and relax, leading to incontinence.
An overactive bladder that squeezes without warning is another source of leaks. It creates a strong, sudden need to urinate even when your bladder isn’t very full. This urge incontinence makes you feel like you have to go immediately. It’s caused by involuntary bladder muscle contractions.
Blockages can also lead to leakage. When the urethra is blocked, the bladder can’t empty properly after filling up. The excess urine can then leak out when any pressure is placed on the bladder. This overflow incontinence is often caused by constipation, tumors, or urinary stones.
Finally, infections and related inflammation can create a frequent, urgent need to urinate, leading to accidents. Urinary tract infections, STIs, and vaginitis can cause symptoms like urge incontinence.
There are a few main types of urinary incontinence:
To determine the cause of your bladder leakage, the doctor will:
There are many ways to treat and manage urinary incontinence including:
The right solution depends on the cause and severity of your urinary incontinence. The most important step is talking to your doctor so they can help determine why you are leaking and build a treatment plan tailored to your situation. For many patients, a combination approach works best. Don’t give up hope – urinary incontinence is highly treatable. You can take control and live symptom-free with the right treatment plan.