Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control that leads to involuntary urine leakage which is a common and often an embarrassing problem faced by many people. The severity of the condition can vary. The types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence
- Overflow incontinence
- Functional incontinence
- Urge incontinence
- Mixed incontinence
- Total incontinence
Urinary incontinence may be an indication of an underlying medical condition or physical problems. The causes for urinary incontinence may include:
- Intake of alcohols, caffeine, carbonated drinks, chocolates, spicy food or foods containing more sugar content.
- Urinary tract infections
- Enlarged prostate
- Prostate cancer
- Neurological disorders
- Tumour in urinary tract
- Women after delivery or childbirth
- Removal of womb or hysterectomy
- Certain medications
The symptoms or how the urine leaks differs for different types of urinary incontinence.
- Stress incontinence : urine leakage due to stress or sudden pressure on the urinary bladder that happens due to activities like coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercise, lifting heavy objects.
- Overflow incontinence: it is also called chronic urinary retention. In this condition the urinary bladder does not completely empty while urinating which causes the bladder to swell. It causes frequent urination in dribbles or very small amounts and the bladder may not get empty even if you try.
- Functional incontinence: incontinence due to a functional impairment is functional incontinence. A physical or functional impairment deprives you from reaching the toilet on time. For examples, if you have tremors or gait disturbances you may not reach or unbutton pants on time.
- Urge incontinence: it is when there is a sudden and very intense need to urinate which causes involuntary leakage of urine.
- Mixed incontinence: mixed incontinence is when more than one incontinence is experienced.
- Total incontinence: it is severe incontinence in which you may pass large amounts of urine constantly.
Diagnosing the type of urinary incontinence and underlying medical condition, if possible involves the following measures:
- Review symptoms
- Medical history
- Physical examination
- Bladder diary
- Digital rectal examination
- Dipstick test
- Residual urine test
Urinary incontinence may not be preventable. The risk of developing and progression of the condition can be minimised by the following measures:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid intake of spicy foods and carbonated drinks
- Quit or avoid smoking
- Eat foods rich in fiber content
- Exercise regularly
- Practise pelvic floor exercises.
Treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the type of incontinence, underlying cause and severity of the condition. Treatment procedures can be surgical or non-surgical. Your doctor may first treat the underlying cause of the condition and move on to next steps. Some of the treatment measures for urinary incontinence includes the following:
- Lifestyle changes such as reducing weight, avoiding intake of caffeinated and carbonated drinks or drinking adequate amounts of water.
- Bladder training to get control over the urinary bladder and reduce the frequency of urinations.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises to strengthen the muscles that help to control urination.
- Electrical stimulation is a procedure used in the treatment of urinary incontinence in which electrical stimulation is given to strengthen pelvic muscles that help to control urination.
- Medical devices such as pessary can be used to prevent urine leakages in women.
- Medications can be used for urinary incontinence depending on the type of urinary incontinence.
- Surgical procedures may be required in severe conditions. Sling procedure is an example in which a sling is placed around the neck of the bladder which helps in preventing urine leakage. There are many other surgical procedures depending on the type of incontinence and underlying cause.
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