Contributed by Dr. T Manohar, Chief Urologist, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur
Do you find yourself rushing to the loo often? Did you know that urine can be an involuntary action? Which can happen when one is excited, stressed, laughing or through any of the daily activities. Then the medical term given to this condition is urinary incontinence.
In basic terms, urinary incontinence is the term used for loss of bladder control. It could vary from a slight loss of urine after one goes emotionally and it can be also an experience where the urge is uncontrollable. The condition could be chronic or temporary. Though it is mostly observed in old age, it is not a compulsory side-effect of aging and is neither limited to old age people. Aging is only a reason when the muscles that support the bladder tend to get weak and this can further lead to urinary incontinence.
Some types of urinary incontinence are:
Stress incontinence: In this case, urine leaks when pressure is exerted on the bladder due to coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.
Urge incontinence: A sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. In this case, the person may need to urinate often, even including throughout the night in some cases. This could happen because of any minor condition, such as infection, or a more-severe condition such as a neurologic disorder or diabetes.
Overflow incontinence: Frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn’t empty completely is likely to be experienced in this situation.
Functional incontinence: This happens when a physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the toilet in time.
Mixed incontinence: In this scenario, more than one type of urinary incontinence occurs.
Something people tend to on is urinary incontinence is not a disease, it’s a symptom. It can happen because of everyday habits, or due to underlying medical conditions or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by the doctor can determine what’s behind the respective person’s incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is can leave the person embarrassed, affecting his/her daily activities. When the condition gets frequent, the patient should not hesitate to seek medical advice. For most of the people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can reduce discomfort or even stop urinary incontinence. Medical advice is crucial because urinary incontinence can:
- Be an indication of a more-serious underlying condition
- Restrict your activities and limit your social interactions
- Increase the risk of potential accidents
Some of the causes that can meddle with nerve signals involved in bladder control and further cause urinary incontinence include urinary tract infection, constipation, persistent urinary incontinence, pregnancy, hormonal changes, increased weight of the fetus, childbirth, changes with age, menopause, hysterectomy, any surgery involving a woman’s reproductive system, enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, obstruction like a tumor, urinary stones, neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, a stroke, a brain tumor or a spinal injury can
Some factors that tend to increase the risk of a person developing urinary incontinence are:
- Gender: Women are more likely to have this issues especially stress incontinence because of pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and normal female anatomy. When it comes to men, those with prostate gland problems are at increased risk of urge and overflow incontinence.
- Age: As one gets older, the muscles in the bladder and urethra lose some of their strength. Also in the older one’s the capacity of the bladder decreases leading to this involuntary condition.
- Being overweight: Extra weight adds more pressure on the bladder as well as the surrounding muscles, which makes them weaker them and leads to leaking out of the urine when a person
- Family history: If a close family member has had urinary incontinence, especially urge incontinence, then the risk of developing the condition is higher.
- Other diseases: Several medical conditions like neurological disease or diabetes can also increase the risk of incontinence.
Few complications that can arise if a person suffers from chronic urinary incontinence include:
- Skin problems like rashes, skin infections and sores tend to develop because of constantly wet skin.
- Increased risk of repeated urinary tract infections.
- Disturbance in the person’s personal life as urinary incontinence mostly affects the social, work and personal relationships of the person.
Hence to avoid these complications, it is important to take necessary precautions. Even though urinary incontinence is not always preventable but it is treatable and preventions can surely decrease the risks. Some preventions to be kept in mind are:
- Ensure a healthy weight
- Regularly practice pelvic floor exercises
- Avoid bladder irritants like caffeine, alcohol and acidic foods
- Increase your fiber intake to prevent constipation which is a cause of urinary incontinence
- Avoid smoking and stay away from tobacco
While urinary incontinence might not appear as a big health risk, it can cause problems and it must be addressed. Preventions along with good health and timely medical interference can be helpful in controlling the condition and providing a solution.