As people get older, some of them face such an uncomfortable and often embarrassing problem as urinary incontinence, in other words, loss of bladder control. Although urinary incontinence occurs more often with aging, it’s not an inevitable condition for older people. Most people can get rid of the symptoms of urinary incontinence by a healthy diet, lifestyle and medicines.
Also, urinary incontinence can differ in severity from occasional leaking of urine when you’re sneezing to having such an intense urge to urinate that you can’t get to the washroom in time.
Symptoms of urinary incontinence
Symptoms of loss of bladder control depend on the types of urinary incontinence that include:
- Functional incontinence. Mental or physical impairments can be a cause of an inability to get to the washroom in time. For instance, severe arthritis may interfere you from unbuttoning your pants quickly enough.
- Urge incontinence. You have an uncontrolled loss of urine as a result of a strong and sudden urge to urinate. In addition, you experience the frequent need for urination both during the day and at night.
- Stress incontinence. Sneezing, coughing, laughing, lifting heavy things, or any other pressure on your bladder may provoke urine leaking.
- Overflow incontinence. Inability to fully empty the urinary bladder leads to constant dribbling.
- Mixed incontinence. You experience more than one of the listed types of urinary incontinence. Usually, it is a combination of urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
When should I see a doctor?
Seeing a doctor is important if you suffer from frequent incontinence, especially if it negatively impacts the quality of your life.
Causes of urinary incontinence
Many factors can cause urinary incontinence. Physical problems, medical conditions, everyday habits, lifestyle, and other aspects can be the root of such uncomfortable problems. After examination, your doctor may identify the particular cause of your incontinence.
Temporary urinary incontinence
Some drinks, food and medications can cause urinary incontinence by stimulating the bladder and increasing urine volume. They include alcohol, soft drinks, caffeine, carbonated water; food high in spice, acid or sugar, chocolate; high doses of vitamin C, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and blood pressure or heart medications.
Furthermore, the root of urinary incontinence can be some easily treatable medical conditions such as constipation or urinary tract infections.
Persistent urinary incontinence
The following aspects can cause constant urinary incontinence:
- Menopause. Estrogen is a hormone that plays a role in keeping the lining of the urethra and the bladder healthy. After menopause, the estrogen level in the woman’s body reduces and may lead to urinary incontinence.
- Pregnancy. Increased weight of the fetus, as well as changes in hormones, can cause stress incontinence.
- Childbirth. After vaginal childbirth, the muscles that control the urinary bladder can be weakened. Also, it can impair bladder nerves and damage the supportive tissue. It may lead to a dropped pelvic floor (prolapse). Prolapse may cause the uterus, bladder, small intestine or rectum to descend and protrude into the vagina. Such conditions can be related to incontinence.
- Prostate cancer. Untreated prostate cancer, as well as treatment of prostate cancer, can cause urinary incontinence.
- Enlarged prostate. Many men face such problem as prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia) as they get older. This condition may contribute to urinary incontinence.
- Changes with age. The capacity of the bladder decreases when we get older. Moreover, uncontrolled contractions of the bladder become more frequent with aging.
- Neurological disorders. Particular neurological disorders can contribute to impairment in bladder nerves. As a result, incontinence may develop.
- Obstruction. Certain problems with the urinary tract can lead to the loss of bladder control. In this way, overflow incontinence can be caused by carcinoma along the urinary tract. Also, in some cases, kidney stones may cause urine leakage.
Risk factors for urinary incontinence
Risk factors include gender, weight, smoking, age, medical condition, family history. For example, men with prostate enlargement are at a higher risk of developing overflow and urge incontinence. Meanwhile, women are at higher risk of stress incontinence due to pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.
- Urinary tract infections
- Problems with the skin due to steadily wet skin
- Influence on your daily life and activities
Prevention of urinary incontinence
The prevention of urinary incontinence is not always possible. However, here are some tips for reducing the risk:
- Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor
- Avoid smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Escape the bladder irritants (alcohol, caffeine, acid food)
- Eat more fibre