What Causes Incontinence In Women?

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Incontinence is a condition that affects over 25 million men and women in America. It can really happen to anyone, and can be caused by many different things. But it is much more common in women – nearly twice as common actually – and unfortunately has become something that many people (even potentially your doctor) brush off as being a normal part of aging. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why Is Incontinence More Prevalent In Women?

Incontinence can have many root causes.  Being overweight, problems with the prostate in men, and even conditions that cause damage to the nerves, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or even diabetes can all lead to incontinence.  But it’s no secret that women suffer from incontinence more than men. This is in part due to the fact that things like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are unique to women and create extra pressure and complications that can cause incontinence. 

The pressure of carrying a baby for 9 months and the trauma of childbirth to the pelvic floor can weaken the pelvic floor, making it difficult to stay continent.  Additionally the hormonal changes that occur during menopause cause a change in continence.  A decrease in estrogen can cause the vaginal tissues to become less elastic and dry and can lead to incontinence and urinary tract infections.

What Types Of Incontinence Are There 

Did you know that there are actually different types of Incontinence? Depending on what you have, there may be different options available to you.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is the frequent and urgent need to use the bathroom, accompanied by bladder leakage.  You may have a sudden feeling that you have to go to the bathroom right now, or it may be triggered by familiar things, such as arriving home, washing the dishes, etc. This type of condition may also exist without bladder leakage, and is then referred to as Overactive Bladder. 

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence happens when pressure is placed on the bladder and causes bladder leakage. This type of leakage might happen when you’re working out, or even when you sneeze or laugh. Unlike Urge incontinence, stress urinary incontinence is not typically accompanied by the sensation of a sudden urge to urinate. Rather, stress urinary incontinence is caused by a weakened pelvic floor, and/or a weak sphincter muscle.  Stress urinary incontinence often occurs in women (although men can have it too), and typically as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. It’s a condition that can get worse as you get older, since we lose pelvic muscle tone as we age. Luckily, there are many treatment options available, and behavioral modifications, such as learning how to create a healthy pelvic floor, can do wonders for this type of incontinence.

Mixed Incontinence

As the name implies, many women can suffer from both Stress Urinary Incontinence, and Urge Incontinence, although one is typically more severe than others. Treatment options for mixed incontinence are typically the same as the treatments you would use for stress urinary incontinence, or urge incontinence.

What Are My Options?

Luckily, there are many treatment options available for the various types of incontinence women tend to have.  Below are just a few treatment options available.

Behavioral Modifications.

Often, simple changes to our lifestyle, including changes to our diet and exercise regimen, can ease a lot of the symptoms of incontinence in women.  Learning the foods and drinks that irritate the bladder, and knowing how to strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles can do a great deal to help reduce or even eliminate symptoms.

 Absorbents

Absorbent products come in all shapes and sizes and are a great option for those who need some extra protection. Read our guide to finding the right absorbent product for you.

 Medications

There are many types of medications available that can sooth an irritable bladder. These medications typically work by relaxing the muscles around the bladder, or stopping the signal to your bladder that you need to go right now!

Procedures

If medications and behavioral modification don’t work for you, there are several options that you may want to try before you think about surgery. Many women have seen success with botox injections into their bladder (it’s not just for wrinkles!), and different forms of neuromodulation, small pulses that stimulate the nerves involved in controlling the bladder.  Learn more about these options here.

Surgery

Finally surgery can be a good option for those who have tried other treatments without success. There are several types of surgical procedures, including urinary diversion, sling procedures, and augmentation cystoplasty, that can help with incontinence in women.

It’s important to note that no treatment is 100% effective all the type. Talk with your doctor about what you can expect with each treatment, as well as the pros and cons associated with them.

Urinary incontinence can have a big impact on a woman’s life and it’s important to get it treated.  Too many women live with symptoms of urinary incontinence, thinking it’s just a normal part of aging. But there are many treatments available and it can make life so much more enjoyable when you’re not looking for a bathroom or worried about having an accident. 

If you live with urinary incontinence, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about treatment options.  

Your Guide To The Different Types Of Incontinence

Types Of Incontinence

Do you have incontinence?  While most people think of incontinence simply as the inability to hold urine, incontinence can actually take many forms.  Here, we break down the different types of incontinence for you.  Once you identify the type you have, you’ll be better suited to treat your condition:

Urge Incontinence. 

Do you feel like you always have to go to the bathroom when you’re washing the dishes?  There’s a reason for that.  Also commonly referred to as Overactive Bladder, or OAB, Urge Incontinence is when you feel a strong need to use the restroom right now.  This can happen out of the blue, and may be triggered by - you guessed it - hearing running water, or even anticipating needing to use the restroom. 

Stress Incontinence. 

Do you leak a little bit when you sneeze or laugh?  Does the thought of jumping on the trampoline with your kids give you pause?  If so, you may be suffering from stress incontinence.  Stress incontinence is the leakage of urine when extra ‘stress’ is placed on the bladder and is generally caused by weakened sphincter muscles.  Common causes are childbirth, general loss of muscle tone, nerve damage, and even chronic coughing, which places continued stress on the muscle. 

Mixed Incontinence. 

Do both of the above scenarios sound familiar to you?  You’re not alone.  Mixed Incontinence is when you feel both the urgent need to go, and experience leakage due to physical exertion, and is very common. 

Urinary Retention. 

Generally caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract, or nerve problems that interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder, urinary retention is when your bladder has trouble completely emptying.  Symptoms of urinary retention include difficulty starting a stream of urine, feeling a frequent need to go, and feeling the need to urinate again soon after finishing. 

Luckily, there are many treatment options available for each of the above types of incontinence.  Educate yourself more about your condition and what can be done, so that when you’re ready to see your doctor, you’ll have a greater understanding of your condition and the options available to you. 

Need help finding a physician?  Use the NAFC Specialist Locator!


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