Urinary incontinence (UI) is a loss of bladder control. For those living with this problem, it creates the embarrassing predicament of having to go and not being able to stop it.
Approximately 13 million Americans are afflicted with UI. Women make up 85 percent of this number.
Three types of urinary incontinence are urge incontinence, stress incontinence, and overflow incontinence.
Urge incontinence is the sudden need to urinate and the inability to control it. There's just not enough time between the realization and the flow.
Stress incontinence causes urinary accidents triggered by coughing, laughing, sneezing, or some types of exercise.
Overflow incontinence happens because the bladder doesn't empty completely and there is leakage later.
A fourth type would be mixed incontinence, a combination of stress and urge incontinence.
Many people are reluctant to talk to their physicians about UI. Some never do. But it is a good idea to see your doctor. It's important to make sure that UI is not a symptom of a serious health issue, such as a disorder involving the brain, nerves or muscles.
Sudden or temporary incontinence can be caused by prolonged bedrest, pregnancy, or medications like diuretics, antidepressants and antihistamines.
Women in menopause experience a drop in estrogen that can cause pelvic and vaginal muscles to weaken. This makes incontinence more likely.
The most common cause of stress incontinence is the aftermath of child-bearing. Many physical changes take place during pregnancy and childbirth. Pelvic muscles are stretched. Organs shift position, and the bladder's nerves and tissues can be damaged.
For many women with pelvic muscles that have been stretched due to pregnancy and childbirth, Kegel exercises and bladder retraining are techniques that can help regain more control.
Kegel exercises are contractions of the pelvic floor muscles. If you're not sure where your pelvic floor muscles are or how to contract them, imagine that you are halting your urine flow.
Tighten the muscles for ten seconds, then relax for ten seconds. Repeat ten times. Doing this three times a day can make a significant improvement over time.
Bladder retraining, or urinating on a schedule, can enable the bladder to become better able to control urination.
Wearing absorbent pads or underclothes can reduce the risk of leakage.
In some cases surgery may be in order.
Urinary incontinence is frustrating. But facing the situation and actively seeking solutions can help to regain a sense of dignity and confidence.
Urinary Incontinence, Nonsurgical Therapies
Urinary Incontinence News and Research
Medline Plus: Urinary incontinence
Mayo Clinic: Urinary incontinence
Patient information: Urinary incontinence in women
Pelvic Health Centre: Urinary Incontinence
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