Urinary incontinence is the uncontrollable loss of urine. It is very common, especially in women. Up to 60% of postmenopausal women have incontinence.
The two most common types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence is losing urine in a spurt or gush with certain activities (such as coughing, sneezing, lifting, exercising). It can be caused by childbirth or growing older.
- Urge incontinence is losing urine on the way to the bathroom. It can be caused by drugs, caffeine, alcohol, or growing older. Many bladder problems worsen during menopause.
In very mild incontinence, a small amount of urine sometimes leaks during a cough, sneeze, or on the way to the bathroom. In mild to moderate incontinence, urine leaks daily and/or a pad is needed for protection. In severe incontinence, urine soaks a pad several times each day.
Incontinence may limit daily activities.
- Taking a medical history.
- Blood tests.
- And other tests to see how the bladder works. These tests, called urodynamic tests, measure pressure in the bladder, urine flow, and the amount of urine left in the bladder after urination.
Strengthening pelvic floor muscles is usually the first step in managing stress incontinence. Tightening these muscles is called a Kegel exercise.
If Kegel exercises do not help, special physical therapy may improve bladder control. This therapy includes biofeedback and electrical stimulation.
Special devices, called pessaries, are also available to treat stress incontinence. These devices can be used to support organs such as the bladder. Sometimes pessaries are useful when urine is lost only during certain activities, such as jogging, aerobics, and horseback riding.
The first step in treating urge incontinence is usually training the bladder to empty at certain times. The goal is for 3 hours to pass before the need to empty during the daytime without any leaking. Sometimes medicines can help with bladder training. These drugs may cause dry mouth or eyes but are generally well tolerated.
Various operations can also be used for stress incontinence. Specialists such as gynecologists or urologists do these operations.
- Do Kegel exercises as directed.
- Take your medicine as directed.
- Do not drink a lot of liquids containing caffeine (such as coffee, black tea, sodas). Caffeine can make the kidneys produce more urine faster than normal, which may cause both stress and urge incontinence to get worse, as well as the urge to void more often.
- Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Alcohol is also a diuretic.
- Do not drink large amounts of fluids during the day or at one time.
- Stop drinking liquids after 7 to 8 pm if you get up more than twice during the night to urinate.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider.