Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control. Though a common condition, it can be embarrassing at times, especially when you’re in a public setting. The severity of this condition can range from leaking urine involuntarily when you laugh hard, sneeze, or cough to having a sudden urge so hard that you’re not able to get to the toilet in time.
Urinary Incontinence – An Overview
The condition is more common in older adults, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. You must seek medical help if it starts to affect your everyday life. Lifestyle changes combined with medical treatment can reduce the discomfort you experience significantly. Most luxury assisted living for pet owners will also have healthcare professionals to treat this condition.
- Stress incontinence is caused by pressure exerted on the bladder due to laughing, lifting heavy stuff, exercising, sneezing, and coughing.
- Functional incontinence – Some mental or physical impairment can come in the way of your reaching the toilet in time. One example would be that of severe arthritis wherein a person has trouble unbuttoning their pants in time.
- Urge incontinence – It’s marked by a sudden and intense urge to urinate. Often the urge is so hard that it results in involuntary urine loss. The person feels the urge to urinate often and throughout the night. The underlying cause can sometimes be a minor infection. In severe cases, it could be due to diabetes or some underlying neurological disorder.
- Overflow incontinence – This is when you experience constant and frequent dribbling of urine. It happens when the bladder doesn’t empty itself.
When to See a Doctor?
If the incontinence becomes frequent and grows to the point where it affects your quality of life, you must seek proper medical advice and treatment. You may also want to start contemplating moving to an assisted living for couples. It’s important because:
- In some cases, it can be indicative of a more severe condition.
- It can come in the way of daily activities.
- It can hamper your social life.
- Incontinence can increase the odds of falls as the person rushes to the toilet.
Reasons for urinary incontinence can be plenty, such as vaginal infection, constipation, urinary tract infection, etc. At times, certain medications can also cause temporary bladder control issues. Incontinence that doesn’t seem to resolve on its own can be due to the following factors:
- Weak pelvic floor muscles
- Overactive bladder muscles
- Weak bladder muscles
- Nerve damage due to Parkinson’s, MS, or diabetes
- Blockages due to an enlarged prostate
- Conditions like arthritis can make it difficult to reach the toilet in time
- Pelvic organ prolapse can cause organs like the uterus, rectum, and bladder to shift into the vagina. This kind of obstruction can disrupt the normal functioning of the bladder and urethra, causing accidental urination.
Most cases of incontinence in men are due to the prostate gland. Common contributory factors are:
- Prostatitis – It’s the inflammation of the prostate gland, which is often painful.
- Damage to the nerves/muscles.
Some foods, drinks, and medications can be diuretics in nature. They can overstimulate your bladder resulting in higher urine volume. The most common ones are:
- Chili peppers
- Artificial sweeteners
- Carbonated drinks
- Sparkling water
- Highly sugary, spicy, and acidic foods; especially citrusy ones
- Medications for blood pressure, muscle relaxations, and sedatives
- Consuming too much Vitamin C
Temporary incontinence is often easily treatable. Sometimes the underlying condition is benign, such as:
- UTIs – Urinary Tract infections can irritate your bladder, leading to a strong urge to urinate and eventually incontinence.
- Constipation – Rectum, which sits near the bladder, has many nerves in common. Hardened stool that won’t pass easily can overstimulate those nerves resulting in a strong urge for urination.
The most common causes of urinary incontinence that won’t go away are:
- Childbirth – Often, vaginal delivery tends to weaken the muscles you need for bladder control. It can also damage nerves and supportive tissues, causing a dropped pelvic floor. Prolapsing can cause organs like the small intestine, uterus, bladder, and rectum to get pushed from their normal position and protrude into the vagina, causing incontinence.
- Pregnancy – Due to numerous hormonal changes taking place in the body combined with the weight of the fetus can put pressure on the bladder resulting in stress incontinence.
- Aging – As you age, the capacity of the bladder and bladder muscles to store and control urine is reduced.
- Menopause – Estrogen levels drop after menopause. It’s the hormone that keeps the urethra and bladder healthy. A drop in estrogen levels can deteriorate pelvic tissues leading to persistent urinary incontinence.
- Enlarged prostate – It’s a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia. In men, this enlarging of the prostate gland is often at the root of incontinence.
- Hysterectomy – Uterus and bladder in women are supported by a similar set of muscles and ligaments. Any surgery that impacts the reproductive system, like removing the uterus, can lessen the capacity of pelvic floor muscles.
- Neurological disorders – Injury to the spine, strokes, brain tumor, MS, and Parkinson’s disease can interfere with the nerves that control the bladder leading to incontinence.
- Obstruction – Tumors along the urinary tract can obstruct the normal flow of urine, resulting in overflow incontinence. Stones and stone-like masses can further cause urine leakages.
- Prostate cancer – Urge and stress incontinence in men, can often be due to undiagnosed prostate cancer. However, it has been noticed that it’s often a side-effect of the cancer treatment itself.
Medical Devices for Incontinence in Older Females
Other than medical treatment, some devices can also help with incontinence in women, such as:
Urethra inserts – It looks like a tampon that you insert into the urethra. Mainly you would insert it during activities that result in incontinence episodes like exercising. Urethra inserts don’t interfere with urination or bowel movements. This device is best for older women who lead an active lifestyle. You can wear a urethra insert for up to 8 hours, which needs changing as per the doctor’s instructions to ensure hygiene.
Pessary – a pessary looks similar to a diaphragm. It’s an intravaginal device that supports the bladder. After insertion, you will need to take it out every three months, wherein a healthcare provider would inspect and clean it. Alternatively, you can also buy a single-use disposable pessary.
If medical treatment alone cannot resolve urinary incontinence, you may have to resort to surgery as a last resort. The most common surgical procedures for incontinence are:
This procedure involves placing synthetic or abdominal tissues underneath the bladder. The idea is to support the urethra. In the case of men, the sling procedure involves making a tiny cut between the anus and scrotum. A common complication of this procedure can be difficulty emptying the bladder. Still, this is the most preferred option because it’s popular and has a history of success.
This procedure is common in cases of stress incontinence. It involves lifting the bladder via incisions made in the lower stomach. Colposuspencion can also be performed via laparoscopy. It’s a promising option when it comes to long-term relief from incontinence.
Artificial urinary sphincter
This surgical procedure is used on men struggling with stress incontinence. It involves placing a device around the neck of the bladder. The device is doughnut-shaped and filled with fluid. It holds the sphincter closed and attaches to a valve in the testicles. In women, it is attached to the labia. To empty the bladder, all you have to do is press the valve twice.
While incontinence is not a life-threatening condition, it can take a toll on the quality of your life. It can make it hard to socialize and travel. That’s why you must not ignore it. If incontinence affects your everyday life, you must talk to a healthcare professional to receive proper/timely treatment.