Urinary Incontinence

urinary incontinence

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence means a person leaks urine by accident. Urinary incontinence is a common bladder problem as people age. Women are more likely than men to leak urine. If this problem is happening to you, there is help. Urinary incontinence can often be controlled. Talk to your health care provider about what you can do.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

There are different types of urinary incontinence.

  • Stress urinary incontinence happens when urine leaks as pressure is put on the bladder, for example, during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects. It’s the most common type of bladder control problem in younger and middle-age women. It may begin around the time of menopause.
  • Urgency urinary incontinence happens when people have a sudden need to urinate and aren’t able to hold their urine long enough to get to the toilet.
  • Mixed urinary incontinence is a mix of stress and urgency urinary incontinence. You may leak urine with a laugh or sneeze at one time. At another time, you may leak urine because you have a sudden urge to urinate that you cannot control.
  • Overflow urinary incontinence happens when small amounts of urine leak from a bladder that is always full. A man can have trouble emptying his bladder if an enlarged prostate is blocking the urethra. Diabetes and spinal cord injury can also cause this type of urinary incontinence.
  • Functional urinary incontinence occurs in many older people who have a problem getting to the toilet in time. They may not make it in time because of arthritis or other disorders that make it hard to move quickly.

Medical Treatment

Today, there are more treatments for urinary incontinence than ever be­fore. The choice of treatment depends on the type of bladder control problem you have, how serious it is, and what best fits your lifestyle. As a general rule, the simplest and safest treatments should be tried first.

Types of Treatments

If lifestyle changes and bladder training don’t help, your health care provider may suggest medical treatments. Medical treatments may include the following.

  • Medicines. If you have urgency urinary incontinence, your provider may prescribe a medicine to calm bladder muscles and nerves. These calming medicines help keep bladder muscles and nerves from making you urinate when you’re not ready. Medicines for urgency urinary incontinence come as pills, liquid, creams, or patches. No medicines treat stress urinary incontinence.
  • Medical devices. Some women may be able to use a medical device to help prevent leaking. One medical device -- called a urethral insert -- blocks the urethra for a short time to prevent leaking when it is most likely to happen, such as during physical activity. Another device -- called a pessary -- is put in the vagina to help hold up the bladder if you have a prolapsed bladder or vagina (when the vagina or bladder has shifted out of place).
  • Nerve stimulation. Nerve stimulation sends mild electric current to the nerves around the bladder that help control urination. Sometimes nerve stimulation can be done at home, by placing an electrode in the vagina or anus. Or, it may require minor surgery to place an electrode under the skin on the leg or lower back.
  • Surgery. Sometimes surgery can help fix the cause of urinary incontinence. Surgery may give the bladder and urethra more support or help keep the urethra closed during coughing or sneezing.

From NIHSenior Health