Urinary Tract Conditions: Urinary incontinence

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Urinary Incontinence Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Urinary incontinence is a common condition, but people often feel isolated and embarrassed about having it. It’s characterized by the involuntary loss of urine, which leads to your inability to control your bladder. Some patients experience urinary incontinence when they laugh, sneeze or cough.

Overactive bladder is the sudden feeling of needing to urinate immediately. It affects men and women at fairly equal rates. However, men may develop urinary incontinence after developing an enlarged prostate. The enlarged prostate can obstruct the flow of urine. Over time, your bladder has to work harder to get the urine past the enlarged prostate.

Overactive bladder is more common as you age. Usually, overactive bladder develops on its own with no known cause.

Some people experience urinary frequency, which means you have to go many times throughout the day (approximately eight or more times in a 24 hour period). Other people wake up at night with the urgency to urinate, called nocturia. And, some people have urinary leakage called urgency and comment. You feel the urgency to rush to the bathroom, but you don't make it in time.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence

Some of the causes of urinary incontinence include:

  • Pelvic floor weakness
  • Certain medications
  • Nerve damage from conditions such as diabetes
  • Prostate conditions
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Childbirth or menopause

Treatment for Urinary Incontinence

Treatments for urinary incontinence typically involve behavioral lifestyle modifications, pelvic floor physiotherapy and/or medication. For stress incontinence, your physiotherapist can give you Kegel exercises to do. 

If non-surgical urinary incontinence treatments aren’t effective, your physician or urologist may recommend a sling. This is a small piece of mesh that helps and supports your bladder. Or, you may be treated with bulking agents, which are injections put around the urethra. Other patients find relief from Botox injections into the bladder.

For women, there are temporary inserts that can go into the vagina. You can usually find these column incontinence pessaries at the drugstore. Additionally, laser urinary incontinence treatments can help build collagen and support the bladder, neck and urethra. 

For men who develop incontinence after prostate surgery, the treatment is generally physiotherapy. If this doesn't work, there are a number of surgeries like a sling operation or an artificial urinary sphincter.

You may even be able to reduce urinary incontinence symptoms with lifestyle changes like weight management and adjusting your diet and fluid intake.

If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence symptoms, talk to your family doctor, physiotherapist or urologist. In many cases, you can alleviate symptoms with treatments like medication, physiotherapy or surgery. 

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