More than 15 million Americans experience urinary incontinence, a condition characterized by the inability to control urine. Women experience incontinence twice as often as men. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract account for this difference.
Urinary incontinence can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and, in some cases, embarrassing. However, it’s not an inevitable part of aging. Most people with this condition can be helped or cured.
Written by Dr. Gregory Glover on behalf of Tennova Healthcare.
ONE CONDITION, FOUR FORMS
Incontinence may be caused by a variety of factors, including urinary tract infections and pelvic support problems. In fact, urinary incontinence can be broadly categorized into four different types—and figuring out which you’re experiencing can be the first step to managing these distressing episodes once and for all.
Urinary incontinence is divided into these categories:
- Stress: Activities such as coughing, exercising, laughing or sneezing put pressure on your bladder and cause urine to leak uncontrollably.
- Urgency: You suddenly need to urinate and may not have time to make it to the bathroom.
- Overflow: You experience frequent and excessive leaking of urine. Additionally, your bladder may not empty completely when you go to the bathroom.
- Functional: Urine flow is normal, but you are not able to get to the bathroom in time because of a disease that makes it hard to move, such as arthritis.
INCONTINENCE IN WOMEN
As a result of pregnancy and childbirth, women may experience problems with the pelvic muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that support the bladder, uterus and other organs. Damage or stretching of the muscles can result in pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where the pelvic floor is no longer able to support the internal organs.
With pelvic prolapse, the organs drop downward—often causing discomfort, urinary incontinence, bowel movement difficulties or painful intercourse. Proper diagnosis and treatment may bring relief and a better quality of life.
TAKING BACK YOUR BLADDER
If you are experiencing problems with incontinence, your doctor may complete a physical exam and ask questions about family history and lifestyle habits. Medication may be used to treat the cause of your urinary incontinence. Bladder training may be a good option if you have stress or urge incontinence. If nonsurgical methods of treatment do not prove effective, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Urinary incontinence is widely underreported to health professionals, despite the obvious distress it can cause. My best advice: Don’t suffer in silence! In many cases, incontinence is treatable, meaning you can reclaim control over your body and start enjoying life again.
Need an OB/GYN? For a referral to a women’s care specialist, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit TennovaMedicalGroup.com.
About the Author:
Dr. Gregory Glover is a urogynecologist with East Tennessee Women’s Specialists. Dr. Glover is part of an exclusive group of physicians nationally who is dual-certified in obstetrics/gynecology as well as female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. He performs gynecology surgery at Turkey Creek Medical Center in West Knoxville.