Get the Facts About Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the formal name for the inability to control urinary leakage and it's a common problem among many women. Some men also suffer from incontinence. Common risk factors for incontinence include aging, pregnancy, being overweight, prostate problems, smoking, and taking certain medications.

Exploring Urinary Incontinence

Regardless of your gender, if you're coping with regular bladder leakage, you may find that the worry and embarrassment it causes can get in the way of your normal activities. The good news is that for both sexes, a combination of basic lifestyle modifications and treatment options can make a significant difference.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

In order to effectively manage incontinence, you'll first need to determine the type of bladder leakage you're dealing with and its cause:

  • Stress urinary incontinence occurs when the pelvic floor and/or sphincter muscle are weak, allowing pressure on the abdominal muscles to cause urine to leak. When this occurs, activities like exercising, lifting heavy objects, and experiencing strong emotions can all cause bladder leakage.
  • Urge incontinence is caused by an overactive bladder that suddenly contracts and causes an unexpected urge to urinate that can be very difficult to control.
  • Overflow incontinence is a problem that results when your bladder isn't able to relieve itself completely and as a result, after you urinate you might find yourself experiencing dribbling or leakage.
  • Many people experience mixed incontinence, which is when you're affected by more than one of these types of incontinence.

Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence

When you find yourself grappling with bladder control issues, you can expect your doctor to give you a physical exam and ask you questions about your liquid intake and voiding patterns, your health history, caffeine and alcohol usage, and medicines you take. Your doctor may also suggest that you start a diary tracking all of your fluid intake and bathroom trips, as well as episodes of urinary leakage. This information can help her narrow in on what's causing your problem and how best to treat it.

Other common diagnostic tools for urinary incontinence include electromagnetic tests called EEG and EMG that measure brain and lower abdomen activity that can affect bladder control; an ultrasound to get a clear picture of your bladder and kidneys; and urodynamic testing to determine how well your bladder is functioning and to identify areas of weakness.

Incontinence Treatment

Your doctor may suggest that you make minor lifestyle modifications such as limiting your fluid intake and planning periodic trips to the bathroom. Losing weight, quitting smoking, and changing medications can also be helpful. It's also worthwhile to explore the range of absorbent products that can help you deal with leakage issues. When weak muscles are contributing to your bladder leakage problem, performing specific exercises to strengthen your pelvic area can have a significant impact. Some people have also found that using different types of therapy and even undergoing surgical procedures can help to prevent or at least effectively manage urinary incontinence so the problem won't get in the way of everyday activities.


Sources: "Urinary Incontinence." Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). 25 June 2011. Web. 10 June 2012.

National Association for Continence. "Non-Surgical Treatment for Female Stress Urinary Incontinence/Incontinence, Nocturia, Enlarged Prostate and Prolapse Information." 4 Nov. 2011. Web. 10 June 2012.