Loss of bladder control, known as urinary incontinence, can be an embarrassing medical condition. Sadly, only half of the people who suffer from it discuss it with their doctor and get the help they need.
While urinary incontinence is a common condition that affects millions of men and women, and is more common in older adults, it is not just a consequence of aging, and it can be managed and treated.
There are a variety of causes of chronic urinary incontinence, with the most common being stress urinary incontinence.
What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?
Stress urinary incontinence is not related to psychological stress. Instead, it is characterized by urine leakage when pressure (stress) or physical movement is placed on the bladder causing drops of urine to come out.
What Are Stress Urinary Incontinence Symptoms?
Some of the most common symptoms of stress urinary incontinence are loss of bladder control while:
- Having sexual intercourse
The frequency and severity of urinary incontinence varies from person to person, but in many cases it warrants a conversation with a specialist such as a urologist, a gynecologist, or a urogynecologist.
What Are Stress Urinary Incontinence Causes?
The leading cause of stress urinary incontinence is the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles and other tissue that support the urethra, the opening of the bladder which releases urine. Normally, these muscles help keep the urethra closed as the bladder fills to prevent leaking until a person is able to reach a bathroom. With weakening of the pelvic floor, the urethra is not able to stay closed with any exertional force, causing leakage of urine.
Stress Urinary Incontinence Risk Factors
There are several things that can lead to stress urinary incontinence, including age, pregnancy, route of child delivery, being overweight, and high intensity exercise. Additionally, women experience the condition more often than men.
Stress Urinary Incontinence Treatments
Some common treatments include:
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises. A doctor may recommend exercises, such as Kegels, to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Patients can also take advantage of physical therapy services for guidance on specific pelvic floor and abdominal muscle exercises that can help.
- Lifestyle changes. As with many other health conditions, a healthy lifestyle can help alleviate symptoms. Quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol and caffeine are all positive actions that can improve bladder control naturally.
- Fluid management. Depending on the person and the severity of the urinary incontinence, a doctor may recommend a certain amount of fluid intake per day. This is a delicate balance, as you want to avoid dehydration while also cutting back on liquids.
- Urinary devices. There are multiple urinary devices used to improve bladder control. A vaginal pessary is a removable device that holds pelvic organs in place, securing the urethra and preventing leakage. There are also bladder slings that can be inserted via surgical procedure.
Should You See a Doctor for Stress Urinary Incontinence?
If you find that stress urinary incontinence interferes with your everyday life, then seeing a doctor for diagnosis and treatment is advised. Discussing your condition with a doctor can determine the severity of your case and put you on the path to treatment.
If you're looking for comprehensive treatment for stress urinary incontinence, contact Summit Health’s urology and urogynecology departments. Our providers have expertise in diagnosing and treating conditions of the urinary tract, pelvic floor, and bladder and can customize the best treatment plan for you.
For more information you may also call 908-273-4300.
Let Us Be Your Partner in Well-Being
At Summit Health, we care about our patients’ overall health. There are many reasons you may come in to visit with us, but we want to be sure you get the most out of every appointment. At your next visit, be sure to talk to your provider about appropriate screenings and necessary evaluations. And, if you are over the age of 65, you may want to discuss fall risk, bladder health, physical activity expectation, and mental health. Additionally, if you are having trouble affording your medications let your provider know. It’s important to have these conversations to stay on top of your health and minimize your risk of developing certain diseases.