Urinary incontinence can be treated with a variety of options.
Affecting about a quarter of all Americans, urinary incontinence (UI) is a loss of bladder control. Men with prostate-related problems are at an increased risk of having bladder control difficulties.
While urinary incontinence may occur due to age-related changes, it’s not specifically limited to any one age group.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
Normally, the brain and bladder work together to control lower pelvic, bladder, and sphincter muscles. Urination occurs through a series of bladder muscle contractions that send urine through a tube that exits the body called the urethra. If anything disrupts this process, urine leakage may occur. Other people with UI have a strong urge to urinate that results in accidents. There are several different types of urinary incontinence that may be experienced:
- Stress urinary incontinence (SUI): Urine leaks occur from bladder pressure due to actions such as laughing, coughing, or strenuous abdominal movements.
- Urge incontinence: Sometimes caused by infections or underlying neurological disorders, this type of UI is characterized by a sudden urge to go. It’s also referred to as over-active bladder (OAB).
- Functional incontinence: UI caused by a mental or physical impairment, such as arthritis, that makes it difficult to get to the bathroom on time.
- Overflow incontinence: With this type of UI, the bladder doesn’t completely empty because the body produces more urine than what the bladder can hold, which results in leakage after urination.
- Mixed UI: A combination of different types of urinary incontinence.
Recurring Urinary Incontinence
Age-related changes and prostate cancer are some of the factors that may contribute to UI becoming a recurring issue. Some individuals have urine control issues because of a tumor or some other type of urinary tract obstruction.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Making a positive diagnosis of UI typically starts with a physical exam and a review of your medical history. Recommended testing may include a urinalysis to rule out infections and a post-void residual measurement to determine how much urine is left in your bladder with an ultrasound or catheter. You might be asked to keep a bladder diary to document your urination habits and patterns.
The way UI is treated will depend on the severity of your symptoms. If urinary incontinence symptoms are mild or moderate, for instance, you may benefit from bladder training, scheduled bathroom trips, or pelvic floor exercises that may help improve bladder control.
If symptoms are severe or not easy to control, gentle electrical stimulation may be recommended to stimulate pelvic floor muscles. If you prefer to avoid surgery, pads and protective garments or self-catheterization may be helpful. UI treatment might also involve:
- Anticholinergics, alpha blockers, and other medications
- Urethral or vaginal inserts
- Injections with bulking agents or Botox
- Nerve stimulators
- Surgery to insert an artificial urinary sphincter
- Sling procedures for stress incontinence
Urinary incontinence isn’t hereditary, nor is it considered a disease. It’s usually a symptom of an underlying issue, although it’s not always preventable. However, you may notice improvements with some urine control problems by making some positive lifestyle changes. For instance, losing weight may decrease pressure on the bladder. Avoiding excessively acidic or spicy foods, eating more fiber-rich foods, and quitting smoking are additional steps that may make UI symptoms less of a distraction.