While urinary incontinence may be seen as a normal part of aging, sometimes, other conditions such as a vaginal infection, a urinary tract infection or constipation may also be the culprits.
The good news, according to the National Institutes of Health, is that there are more treatment options than ever before.
Simple lifestyle or behavioral modifications are often the first therapy, and may be the only necessary treatment. These include modifying the diet, reducing liquids before bedtime, or eliminating or adding medications.
Behavioral therapy relies on biofeedback to increase the patient's awareness of the lower urinary tract, to strengthen the muscles that control the bladder. Pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, strengthen the muscles around the urethra so that urine is less likely to leak, even under pressure. Over half of women who leak urine do so in part because they are unable to use these muscles to stop their leakage. For patients with difficulty identifying and strengthening their pelvic floor muscles, Mayo specialists use biofeedback and electrostimulation devices as training aids. These therapies require time, effort and commitment, but they do not have side effects and are often very effective.
Several medications treat incontinence by:
- preventing unwanted bladder contractions,
- tightening the bladder or urethra muscles, or
- relaxing bladder muscles.
Sometimes these drugs have unwanted side effects such as dry mouth, vision problems or urine buildup.
Minimally Invasive Treatments
Bulking agents (space-filling substances) are used mainly to treat stress incontinence in men and women. Collagen and other materials can be injected into the tissue around the urethra to add bulk and keep the sphincter muscles closed to stop urine from leaking.