When you have to go, you just have to go.
But what happens when you can no longer control the go? It can be embarrassing to lose control when you’re in a public place or on an outing, but it doesn’t need to dictate your life. Instead of letting fear of an uncontrollable body keep you from going out, show your body whose boss!
What it is
Female urinary incontinence essentially means that occasionally—whether you’re coughing, laughing, sneezing, jogging, or some other jarring activity—your bladder accidentally releases urine. Sometimes incontinence simply means you’ll have a sudden urge to use the bathroom but be unable to get there in time. Embarrassed as you may be, you’re far from alone: the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that bladder incontinence in some degree affects over 200 million people worldwide.
Bladder problems are more common among older adults, although they can occur at any age. There are a wide variety of causes for urinary incontinence, including short-term and long-term, and incontinence may even be a sign of a larger problem. Short-term causes consist of a primary condition causing the incontinence, such as a urinary tract infection or a specific medication. Long-term incontinence, however, is divided into two main types (which may occur together):
- Stress incontinence occurs when you engage in any activity—voluntary or involuntary—that puts pressure on your bladder. Activities that could place pressure on your bladder include jogging, running, sneezing, weight lifting, or even laughing. This is the most common type of bladder control problems in women.
- Urge incontinence is when you feel the need to urinate about thirty seconds before your bladder lets go—never enough time to safely reach a bathroom. Frequently, this happens when your bladder is holding only a small amount of urine, and the leak can occur without warning. Sometimes this happens when a woman hears, drinks, or touches running water; overactive bladder is another kind of urge incontinence.
Unlike short-term incontinence, long-term incontinence is not accompanying a primary medical condition. Instead, long-term incontinence is often the byproduct of two main causes:
- Weak urinary tract muscles can be caused by childbirth, excessive weight gain, or really any other condition which can stretch the pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles begin to weaken, they can’t properly hold your bladder; slowly, your bladder will begin to drop and push against your vagina.
- Problems or damage with urinary tract nerves can happen through a myriad of causes. Some examples are Parkinson’s disease, stroke, emotional stress, or even bladder irritation.
What to do
There is not a single correct course of treatment for urinary incontinence. Your doctor will likely want to know more about your specific incontinence, including what you drink, what causes your leaks, when your leaks occur, and if there may be an underlying condition. To keep track of the details of your condition, its recommended to keep a bladder diary for a few days to log your intake and output.
Treatment options will be different for each woman with incontinence, although here’s a short list of lifestyle changes that could make a difference in the way you go:
- Cut back on caffeinated drinks, including tea and coffee.
- Eat foods high in fiber.
- Don’t smoke.
- Try to maintain a weight that is healthy for your body type.
- Include pelvic-floor exercises (such as Kegel exercises) into your routine.
If these symptoms have a positive impact on your urinary incontinence, you’re well on your way to controlling the go. For more information on urinary incontinence and what you can do to get back to normal, stop by and visit with us!