Urinary incontinence (UI) is the inability to voluntarily keep your urine in your bladder. Often caused by what is known as overactive bladder syndrome (OAB), this frustrating condition can present in a number of ways. UI usually affects older women, especially those who have carried children, but can be diagnosed in anyone, regardless of age or gender. Here are five signs that you may need to seek treatment for UI;
You’re afraid to cough. The muscles of the pelvic floor and urethral sphincters should be able to resist downward pressures. If coughing, laughing, or sneezing suddenly leaves you in a pool, and in a bind, these normal muscular control mechanisms may be compromised. This is known as stress incontinence.
By the time you need to go, you’ve gone. Unlike stress incontinence, urge incontinence prevents you from retaining urine in the bladder after the neurological signals to “go” have been stimulated. The result is frequent leakage throughout the day, which can really impact your schedule and quality of life.
You keep getting up to urinate at night. You can’t sleep through the night, or risk waking up wet. Nighttime urination, or nocturia is a common symptom of overactive bladder disease.
You have a history of multiple births, urinary tract infections, or enlarged prostate. Women who gave birth to multiple children tend to have weakening of the pelvic floor musculature, which can lead to UI. Women or men who have had a history or UTI’s can have chronic damage of the urethral structures that control the bladder. Men with benign enlarged prostate, common over the age of 50, can also suffer from incontinence issues, due to the constricted passage of urine through a narrowed opening.
You’re spending too much time worrying about peeing. If the fear of having a urinary accident is dominating your thoughts daily, it’s time to seek help from a family doctor or urologist. OAB is common, but not normal, and you do not have to “just live with it”.
About 33 million Americans have some form of overactive bladder disease. Many more may be resisting seeking treatment due to embarrassment or resignation to “old-age” health problems. Read more about OAB and UI at www.urologyhealth.org.
If you are an older person, do not assume that the symptoms you’re experiencing are inevitable. A number of treatment options are available, from medication, to physical therapy, to alternative, non-traditional therapies that have shown some benefit.
Some of the treatments offered are:
- OAB medicines, such as Vesicare, Ditropan, or Detrol LA
- Prostate medicines such as Flomax and Avodart
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises, like Kegels, or other physical therapy
- Bladder retraining and biofeedback therapy
If these treatments fail, urinary devices such as pessaries or catheters can be considered, and there are even surgical options if necessary, depending on your diagnosis. For additional education, the Mayo Clinic provides an excellent overview of the condition and respective treatments.