Incontinence is where it is not possible to always control the passing of urine. It is incredibly common in women, and there are a number of different types that patients may experience one or more of.
- Stress – urine is passed when the bladder is under pressure, such as during laughter
- Urge incontinence – there is a sudden urge that can’t be controlled and some urine leaks
- Overflow incontinence – it doesn’t feel like the bladder can be fully emptied, which can lead to frequent leaking
- Total incontinence – the bladder seems to be unable to store any urine and results in frequent leaking
In women, the two more common types of incontinence are stress and urge incontinence. The reason why women are more prone than men to these are due to pregnancy and vaginal birth. These can place extra pressure on the bladder and the pelvic floor muscles, which are stretched to allow the baby to be born. While many women will recover and have no long-term problems, there can be some who need additional treatment.
Other causes include obesity, a family history of incontinence, growing age, damage from a previous surgery, neurological conditions, alcohol or caffeine intake, constipation and certain medicines.
Given the whole range of potential causes, it is important to see a urologist to get a thorough examination. This will help to identify any underlying cause, and also treat the symptoms.
If there is any type of urinary incontinence, it is important to see a doctor. There should be no embarrassment as this is so common and is just like any other condition that a person would seek medical help for. Furthermore, it is important to be fully aware of the symptoms that are being experienced, to ensure that this can be communicated. This will help with the diagnosis.
A vaginal examination or urine test may be required and also it would be helpful to keep a diary to provide a full picture of what is being experienced. For more information on other diagnostic tests that may be carried out, please see our full page on this.
The treatment will depend on any underlying causes, but there are a number of lifestyle changes that could also help such as losing weight, reducing alcohol and caffeinated drinks, and undertaking pelvic floor exercises.
If surgery has been identified as the appropriate treatment, then the surgeon will discuss options including any side effects. It may be best to wait until a woman has decided she will have no more children before carrying out any surgery.