Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the flow of urine resulting in a person urinating when they don’t want to. The basic cause is due to loss of control of the urinary sphincter. This is a fairly common condition, occurring more frequently in women than in men.

The American Urological Association estimates that one quarter to one-third of people in the United States experiences urinary incontinence.

Types of incontinence:
• Stress Incontinence – urine leaks when there is pressure put on the bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects
• Urge Incontinence – the urge to urinate can be very intense and can be caused by a severe infection or a chronic condition like diabetes or a neurological condition
• Overflow Incontinence – when the bladder doesn’t empty completely it can lead to dribbling
• Functional Incontinence – when there is a physical or mental condition that inhibits you from getting to the bathroom quickly enough. (This can be due to age or a physical disability)
• Mixed Incontinence – when there is more than one factor that leads to being unable to control the flow of urine

Diagnosing urinary incontinence can be done in different ways and depends on what the underlying cause is thought to be. In men, this may include a prostate exam and in women, this may involve checking the pelvic floor. A blood test may be performed to assess kidney function. Urinalysis may show if there are signs of infection.  It may be necessary to examine the bladder by performing a post-void residual test to see if the bladder is emptying properly. A pelvic ultrasound can be used to see if there are obstructions in the ureters and bladder. A cystogram is an x-ray of the bladder. Another exam is a cystoscope whereby a tiny probe is placed into the urethra to see if there are abnormalities.

Treatment options for urinary incontinence depend on what is causing the problem. Options include muscle strengthening, delaying urination as a way of gaining control, going to the bathroom to urinate at set times to avoid a buildup of urine in the body. There are also medications that may be helpful in controlling an overactive bladder and weakened sphincters.

Senior man with bladder control problem

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.