Urinary incontinence, a common and often awkward problem, varies in severity. It can manifest as occasional minor leakage when coughing or sneezing, or as a sudden, strong urge to urinate that makes it difficult to reach a restroom in time.
While urinary incontinence becomes more common with age, it’s important to note that it isn’t an inevitable aspect of getting older. If urinary incontinence starts affecting your daily life, it’s recommended to consult a doctor without hesitation. The majority of individuals can manage their urinary incontinence symptoms through simple dietary and lifestyle modifications or by seeking medical intervention.
Incontinence is primarily characterized by the unintentional release of urine. This can manifest as a continual trickle of urine or occasional instances of leakage. Those affected by incontinence may encounter varying volumes of leaked urine, ranging from significant amounts to smaller quantities.
You might leak urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, feels the urge to urinate but could not reach the toilet, have the feeling of urinating at night, or when you are working out.
Urinary incontinence comes in a variety of forms.
- Stress incontinence. When you put strain on your bladder through coughing, sneezing, laughing, working out, or lifting anything heavy, urine leaks.
- Urge incontinence. A sudden, strong urge to urinate strikes, followed by an uncontrollable leak of urine. It’s possible that you’ll need to urinate frequently, even at night. A mild condition like an infection or a more serious one like diabetes or a neurological issue can both contribute to urge incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence. You often or continuously urinate because your bladder doesn’t entirely empty.
- Functional incontinence. You cannot get to the bathroom quickly due to a physical or mental impairment. For instance, you might not be able to unbutton your jeans quickly enough if you have severe arthritis.
- Mixed incontinence. You have more than one form of urine incontinence; this typically means that you have both urge and stress incontinence.
Discussing incontinence with your doctor could feel uncomfortable, but it’s essential to prioritize medical attention if incontinence happens regularly or significantly diminishes your quality of life. This is important because urinary incontinence has the potential to:
- Point to an underlying condition that is more severe.
- Lead to you limiting your hobbies and social connections
- Older people who rush to the bathroom have a higher risk of falling
- Have a negative effect on your quality of life
Consistent routines, underlying medical conditions, or physical factors can all play a role in causing urinary incontinence. Your doctor will conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine the underlying cause of your incontinence.
Temporary urinary incontinence
Drinks, diet, and drugs that stimulate the bladder and increase urine production are known as diuretics. They consist of:
- Vitamin C in high doses
- Drinks such as carbonated or sparkling, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, or artificial sweeteners.
- Foods heavy in acid, sweetness, or spice
- Sedatives, muscle relaxants, and drugs for high blood pressure and the heart
- Chili peppers
Another disorder that is easily managed and may contribute to urinary incontinence is:
- Urinary tract infection. Strong impulses to urinate and, occasionally, incontinence can result from infections irritating your bladder.
- Constipation. The bladder and the rectum are close neighbors and have many similar nerves. These nerves become overactive as a result of hard, compacted feces in your rectum, which raises the frequency of your urination.
Persistent urinary incontinence
Originating from underlying physical factors or changes, urinary incontinence, being a persistent condition, can encompass:
- Childbirth. Following vaginal delivery, a weakened pelvic floor, also known as prolapse, can occur. This can adversely affect the muscles necessary for bladder control and damage the bladder’s nerves and supportive tissues. Prolapse can lead to the protrusion of the bladder, uterus, rectum, or small intestine into the vagina due to their displacement from their usual positions. Such protrusions might be associated with incontinence.
- Age changes. Bladder muscle aging can diminish the capacity of the bladder to retain urine. As you age, there is an increase in the frequency of involuntary contractions of the bladder.
- Menopause. Estrogen, a hormone that aids in maintaining the health of the lining of the bladder and urethra, is produced less by women after menopause. Damage to these tissues might make incontinence worse.
- Pregnancy. Stress incontinence can be brought on by hormonal changes and the fetus’s increased weight.
- Obstruction. Overflow incontinence can result from a tumor anywhere along the urinary system blocking the normal flow of urine. Urine leakage can occasionally result from urinary stones, which are hard, stone–like masses that develop in the bladder.
- Neurological disorders. Urinary incontinence can be brought on by multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, a stroke, a brain tumor, or a spinal injury that disrupts the nerve signals that control bladder function.
- Enlarged prostate. Incontinence frequently results from benign prostatic hyperplasia, an enlargement of the prostate gland that is more common in elderly men.
- Prostate cancer. Men who experience urge or stress incontinence may also have untreated prostate cancer. However, incontinence is more frequently a side effect of prostate cancer therapy.
Several factors influence your susceptibility to experiencing urinary incontinence:
- Age. Your bladder and urethra’s muscles deteriorate in strength as you age. Your bladder’s capacity decreases as you age, increasing the likelihood of an unintentional urine leak.
- Gender. Stress incontinence is more common in women. This discrepancy can be attributed to normal female anatomy, menopause, pregnancy, and childbirth. However, men who have issues with their prostate gland are more likely to experience urge and overflow incontinence.
- Heredity. Your chance of acquiring urine incontinence increases if a close relative has it, particularly urge incontinence.
- Obesity. Being overweight puts more strain on the muscles that surround and support your bladder, weakening them so that pee can seep out when you cough or sneeze.
- Some diseases. Your risk of incontinence may rise if you have diabetes or neurological disorders.
- Smoking. Use of tobacco products may make you more susceptible to incontinence.