Urinary incontinence is a common problem. As the name suggests, the condition is characterised by the involuntary leakage of urine, caused by the loss of bladder control. The severity of urinary incontinence varies. In some people it may be just leakage of urine while coughing or sneezing, while in others it may cause a sudden and intense urge to urinate that one won’t even reach the toilet. Let’s delve deeper to understand urinary incontinence in detail.
Urinary incontinence is a symptom, not a disease. It can be the result of habits, an underlying medical condition, or other physical problems. Certain types of drinks, food and medication can cause temporary urinary incontinence as they act as diuretics. They stimulate the bladder and increase the volume of urine. Some of them are:
- Carbonated drinks and sparkling water
- Artificial sweeteners
- Chilli peppers
- Citrus fruits
- Certain medications
Two of the most common and easily treatable causes of urinary incontinence are urinary tract infection and constipation. How do these two conditions cause urinary incontinence? Let’s have a look.
- Urinary tract infection: When there’s an infection in the bladder, it causes irritation and a strong urge to urinate, resulting in urinary incontinence.
- Constipation: The rectum and bladder are in close proximity and share many nerves in common. The hard stool in the rectum causes nerves to be overactive, thus causing an increase in urinary frequency.
Other reasons for persistent urinary incontinence are changes in body or certain underlying medical conditions such as the following:
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and the weight of foetus cause stress incontinence.
- Childbirth: Vaginal delivery can weaken muscles and cause other changes such as prolapsed pelvic floor. These result in urinary incontinence.
- Age: Aging of the bladder affects its capacity to store urine. Also, as a personage, involuntary contractions of the bladder become more frequent. These factors contribute to urinary incontinence.
- Menopause: The body’s ability to produce oestrogen – a vital hormone that helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy –is reduced after menopause, resulting in urinary incontinence.
- Hysterectomy: Any surgical procedures that involve the reproductive organs affect the pelvic floor muscles and contribute to the problem of urinary incontinence.
- Enlarged prostate: In older men, urinary incontinence is often caused by an enlarged prostate – the condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia.
- Prostate cancer: Urinary incontinence can either be the result of untreated prostate cancer or the side effect of treatment for prostate cancer.
- Obstruction: A tumour anywhere in the urinary tract or kidney stones can cause urinary incontinence.
- Neurological disorders: Parkinson’s disease, stroke, brain tumour, spinal injury or multiple sclerosis, etc., are reasons for urinary incontinence.
- Stress incontinence: Characterised by urine leaks while laughing, sneezing, coughing, or exercising.
- Urge incontinence: Marked by a sudden urge to urinate, followed by involuntary urine leakage.
- Overflow incontinence: When a person experiences constant dribbling of urine because of a bladder that doesn’t empty completely.
- Functional incontinence: When someone can’t reach the toilet on time because of a mental or physical condition.
- Mixed incontinence: When more than one type of urinary incontinence is experienced by a person.
Diagnosis & treatment
There are various ways in which you can diagnose the condition. These include urine analysis, maintaining a bladder diary, etc.
Treatment varies from medication to behavioural therapy and electrical stimulation to intervention. In worst scenarios, surgery is suggested.
- Maintain your weight
- Do pelvic floor exercise
- Avoid drinks and foods that cause bladder irritation
- Eat fibre-rich food
- Stop smoking
Urinary incontinence is a common problem. But never ignore it. More than a mere discomfort, it can be the result of an underlying medical condition.
Dr. Prashanth Kulkarni | Consultant – Kidney Transplant – Adult, Robotic Surgery, Urology | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra, Bangalore