Reversing Uriniary Incontinence
Lisa Jaacks, MD, is an OB/GYN at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Ariz. Her office can be reached at 602-978-1500.
Question: Why do women experience urinary incontinence and are there ways to treat or reverse it?
Answer: Urinary incontinence is the unintentional leaking of urine from the bladder. It is a fairly common condition that can affect men and women; however, it occurs much more frequently in women. In fact, up to 30 percent of women experience symptoms.
Symptoms vary with age, as well as with the type of incontinence one is experiencing. There are several different types of incontinence: stress, urge, overflow and mixed.
Stress incontinence is the leaking of urine due to actions or activities that cause pressure on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing and lifting objects.
Urge incontinence is caused by involuntary spasms in the wall muscle of the bladder, causing the sudden urge to go to the bathroom and sometimes leaking before you can relieve yourself.
Overflow incontinence is due to the absence of sensation in the bladder. This causes you to be unable to tell when the bladder is full or empty, resulting in chronic dribbling.
Mixed incontinence is the combination of stress and urge, both of which can occur simultaneously.
The primary causes of incontinence in women are pregnancy and childbirth, smoking, obesity, chronic conditions causing excessive coughing and sneezing, excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, and heavy lifting.
Urinary incontinence is usually a chronic condition, unless the cause is a temporary infection, and progresses over time. Fortunately, there are treatment options available, and you do not have to deal with it for the rest of your life. The types of incontinence I generally see are stress and urge, or a mix of the two. Depending on the type, treatment can range from simple lifestyle modifications to surgery.
Many women experience mild symptoms of urinary leakage, but when the symptoms are severe enough to disrupt your life and keep you from doing activities that you would normally enjoy, it's time to seek medical attention.
Reviewed December 2010