Urinary incontinence is the accidental or unintentional loss of bladder control. It varies by severity from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to severe and frequent wetting. Urinary incontinence can occur at any age, with it occurring more often as people get older and even more common among women over the age of 50. It is, however, not an inevitable consequence of aging. may be a temporary condition that results from an underlying medical condition.
Urinary incontinence is often caused by specific changes in body function that may result from diseases, medications or the onset of an illness. Women are most likely to develop urinary incontinence during pregnancy and after childbirth, or after the hormonal changes of menopause.
The two most common types of urinary incontinence in women are:
This is the most common type of incontinence that affects younger women. Stress incontinence happens when there is stress or pressure on the bladder. This is leakage of urine during everyday actions that use the pelvic floor muscles, such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Sudden movements and physical activity can also cause you to leak urine.
Stress incontinence usually intensifies a week before your menstrual cycle. During that period, the lower levels of estrogen might lead to lower muscular pressure around the urethra, increasing chances of leakage.
With urge incontinence, you get a strong and sudden urge to urinate, which strikes before you can get to a bathroom, leading to an involuntary loss of urine. Some women with urge incontinence are able to get to a bathroom in time but feel the urge to urinate more than eight times a day, including throughout the night.
Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition, such as infection, or a more-severe condition such as a neurologic disorder or diabetes.
Symptoms of urinary incontinence
Different individuals may experience symptoms differently and these may include:
- The need to rush to the restroom
- Losing urine if you do not get to the restroom in time
- Movements or exercise leading to urine leakage
- Leakage of urine that prevents activities
- Coughing or sneezing causing urine leakage
- Leakage of urine that began or continued after surgery
- Constant feeling of wetness without sensation of urine leakage
- Feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
Causes of Urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence may be caused by problems with the muscles and nerves that help the bladder hold or pass urine. Certain health events unique to women are:
Pregnancy – Hormonal changes and the increased weight of the fetus can lead to stress incontinence applying pressure on the pelvic muscles.
Childbirth – Vaginal delivery can cause the weakening of muscles needed for bladder control, damage bladder nerves and their supportive tissue, leading to a prolapsed pelvic floor.
Changes with age – As one ages, the bladder muscle can decrease the bladder’s ability to store urine. Also, involuntary bladder contractions become more frequent as you get older.
Menopause – After menopause women produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy. Deterioration of these tissues can aggravate 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 removal of the uterus, may damage the supporting pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to incontinence.
Other causes of urinary incontinence include:
Overweight – Having overweight puts pressure on the bladder, which can weaken the muscles over time. A weak bladder cannot hold as much urine.
Constipation – Problems with bladder control can happen to people with long-term (chronic) constipation. Constipation, or straining to have a bowel movement, can put stress or pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. This weakens the muscles and can cause urinary incontinence or leaking.
Nerve damage. Damaged nerves may send signals to the bladder at the wrong time or not at all. Childbirth and health problems such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis can cause nerve damage in the bladder, urethra, or pelvic floor muscles.
If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to contact Marie Stopes. Make your health a priority by booking a women’s wellness check-up at your nearest centre today. A Well Women appointment at Marie Stopes South Africa gives you time to simply check in with your healthcare provider.