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Urinary Incontinence, often called Overactive Bladder, is defined as the loss of bladder control. It is a common medical condition that ranges in severity from accidentally leaking urine when one coughs or sneezes, to having a sudden and strong urge to urinate, that the person is unable to make it to a bathroom in time.
Though Urinary Incontinence is more frequent as one begins to age, it isn't necessarily just an inevitable consequence of aging. Many people of various ages experience occasional, minor urinary leakage, and begin to lose small to moderate amounts of urine more frequently than others.
The Types of Incontinence
There are five different types of incontinence, and each type is caused by different conditions. The five types of incontinence are:
1. Stress Incontinence: When urine accidentally leaks due to weakened pelvic floor muscles and tissues. This can also happen when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, lifting, exercising, or laughing.
2. Urge Incontinence: Also known as Overactive Bladder, or OAB. This is when someone has an urgent need to urinate and may not arrive to the bathroom in time. Usually, this can be caused by damage to the bladder's nerves, damage to other parts of the nervous system, damage to muscles, Multiple-Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Diabetes, or as a result of a Stroke.
3. Overflow Incontinence: This means when the bladder feels like it cannot be emptied, therefore it can cause a person to dribble urine. This type can also be caused by weak bladder muscles, nerve damage, urine flow blockages, constipation, and certain medications.
4. Functional Incontinence: This type can occur due to mental or physical impairments, which can prevent a person from reaching the bathroom in time. An example of such impairments would be arthritis or Dementia.
5. Mixed Incontinence: When a person experiences more than one of the above types of urinary incontinence.
It is important to realize that Urinary Incontinence is not a disease, but merely a symptom that can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions, or physical problems. A thorough examination by a physician will help determine what is behind the incontinence, and if it is temporary, or persistent.
Temporary Urinary Incontinence can be caused by certain drinks, foods, and medications. For example: alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, foods that are high in spice, sugar, or acid, and heart and blood pressure medications all can act as diuretics - stimulating the bladder and increasing the volume of urine.
Temporary incontinence may also be caused by easily treatable medical conditions, such as, Urinary Tract Infections or constipation.
Persistent Urinary Incontinence is an ongoing condition that is caused by underlying physical problems or changes, including:
Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and increased weight of the baby can lead to stress incontinence.
Childbirth: Vaginal delivery can weaken the muscles needed for bladder control and damage the bladder nerves and supportive tissue. This leads to a prolapsed pelvic floor. With prolapse, the bladder, uterus, rectum, or small intestine can be pushed down from their usual position and protrude outward. Such protrusions are associated with incontinence.
Hysterectomy: In women, the bladder and uterus are supported by many of the same muscles and ligaments. Any surgery that involves a woman's reproductive system - including C-Sections - may damage the supporting pelvic floor muscles.
Menopause: After Menopause, women produce less estrogen - which is a hormone that helps to keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. When these tissues deteriorate, it can aggravate incontinence.
Changes in Age: Aging of the bladder muscle can decrease the bladder's capacity to store urine. Also, involuntary bladder contractions become more frequent as a person ages.
Enlarged Prostate: In men, especially older men, incontinence often stems from the enlargement of the prostate gland. That is a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Prostate Cancer: Stress or Urge incontinence can be associated with untreated prostate cancer, or become a side effect of treatments for prostate cancer, in men.
Obstruction: A tumor that is anywhere along the urinary tract can block the normal flow of urine, leading to overflow incontinence. Urinary stones - which form in the bladder - sometimes cause urine leakage.
Neurological Disorders: As mentioned above, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, a stroke, brain tumor, or a spinal injury can all interfere with nerve signals involving bladder control.
Gender: Women are more likely to experience stress incontinence because of pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and normal female anatomy. However; men who have prostate gland problems are at an increased risk of urge and overflow incontinence.
Age: The older someone is, the more weakened the muscles in the bladder become. Changes with age reduce how much urine the bladder can hold, and age increases the chances of involuntary urine release.
Overweight: Any extra weight increases pressure on the bladder and surrounding muscles. The pressure then weakens the muscles and allows urine to leak when coughing or sneezing.
Smoking: Along with many other health issues, smoking and tobacco use can increase the risk of urinary incontinence.
Family History: If a relative has urinary incontinence, the risk for developing it increases due to genetics.
Other Diseases: Diabetes and numerous other neurological disorders increase the risk of incontinence.
Prevention & Treatment
Urinary incontinence isn't always preventable, but there are some things that can decrease the risk, and treat the types. First, always consult a medical professional. While this topic may seem uncomfortable, only a physician can give advice and treatment options if incontinence is frequent, or affecting your everyday lifestyle. There are several medications - including alpha blockers, and anticholinergics - that a doctor may try to help decrease symptoms, and improve your quality of life, or they may even offer surgery as a means to correct the condition.
To help ease the symptoms naturally, or decrease the risk of urinary incontinence, your doctor may also suggest the following:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes diet and exercise.
- Practicing pelvic floor exercises.
- Avoiding bladder irritants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and acidic foods.
- Combining more fiber into your diet to prevent constipation, a cause of Urinary Incontinence.
- Bladder retraining or other behavioral management techniques, such as double voiding, or scheduled bathroom trips.
- Quitting smoking
- The use of medical devices, protective garments or absorbent pads and catheters that can help ease the discomfort and inconvenience of incontinence. Here, at Mountainside Medical, we offer a plethora of these incontinence products that fit your every day lifestyle. Discover them by clicking here (or clicking any of the links above) and calling 1-888-687-4334 for more information.
Lastly, remember to always consult with a medical professional before attempting any treatment on your own. Your doctor will guide you with the best treatment that they feel will be suited for you.