What You Need To Know About Female Urinary Incontinence (UI)
Urinary incontinence (UI) can be incredibly hard to live with. So it is important for women of all ages to know that they are not alone in this condition, and they do not need to suffer in silence.
Much of the information and resources about urinary incontinence in women is aimed at older women, but younger women can and often do experience UI as well. Life can be hard enough as it is without having to worry about making it to the bathroom in time, or experiencing anxiety every time you go to a place where toilets might not be readily accessible.
There are a lot of reasons that younger women might experience urinary incontinence. These can include injuries to the pelvic floor muscles, childbirth, obesity or a family history of UI. However, help is out there for women of any age who are experiencing urinary incontinence.
What Is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control that leads to the unintentional passing of urine. It can vary in severity from a small passing of urine to being unable to make it to the toilet in time. It can happen in women of any age, from young women to the elderly. In some people, UI might get worse with age, but it should not be considered an inevitable part of ageing.
Types Of Urinary Incontinence
There are several types of UI in women, which can result in different symptoms and treatments. Some women may experience different kinds of UI at once, most commonly stress and urge incontinence.
Stress incontinence is caused by pressure on the bladder and can result from coughing, sneezing, exercise, and heavy lifting. Someone with stress incontinence may experience frequent leaking when pressure is put on the bladder.
Urge incontinence is the very sudden and intense feeling of needing to pass urine. It comes on suddenly, and many people are unable to reach the toilet before passing urine. Typically, urge incontinence sufferers have only a few seconds between the release of urine and when they feel the urge to go.
This is where the bladder is unable to fully empty, which can lead to leakage throughout the day.
Functional incontinence is the inability to make it to the toilet in time even when a person’s bladder is working normally. This is usually due to a physical or cognitive condition, which makes it a struggle for a person to reach the toilet on their own.
This is where the bladder is unable to store any urine, leading to the constant passage of urine and leaking.
Urinary Incontinence Causes
Stress incontinence is most commonly caused by injury or weakness in the pelvic floor muscles. This may happen due to pregnancy and childbirth or when getting older. Obesity may also cause stress incontinence.
People with urge incontinence may have what is known as an overactive bladder, which is caused by the detrusor muscles of the bladder contracting too frequently and resulting in frequent urges to urinate. This may be caused by urinary tract infections, overindulging in caffeine or alcohol, or dehydration. Bladder stones and constipation may also contribute to different types of UI, as can some medications.
Symptoms Of Urinary Incontinence
The specific symptoms that women experiencing UI might see will differ depending on the type of UI they are dealing with. There are some symptoms that are very common in most cases of UI, which include:
- Urine leakage when laughing, coughing, sneezing, exercising or heavy lifting
- A sudden and urgent need to pass urine
- Passing small amounts of urine often
- Needing to pee very frequently
- Difficulty passing urine, such as having to strain, a slow flow or passing a few drops after you’ve finished urinating
Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence
One of the primary obstacles for women experiencing urinary incontinence is being embarrassed or having difficulty talking about their condition. This is most common in younger women, who may have the wrong idea that this is an older women’s issue. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to seeking help for a medical issue, and most experienced medical professionals will have encountered many women and men of all ages who are dealing with the issue.
Getting diagnosed is a crucial first step to regaining control and preventing UI from impacting a patient’s life unnecessarily. Ways a doctor may diagnose UI in a patient include:
- Use of a bladder diary to track when and how UI incidents occur
- A physical exam
- A test for a UTI
Urinary Incontinence Treatment
The treatment a patient receives for UI will depend on the type of UI they are experiencing. Some of the most common treatment options include exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, lifestyle changes and bladder training. Medication may also be recommended, depending on the type of UI. The use of incontinence pads and pull-up pants may also be recommended. As a last resort, a doctor may recommend surgery to correct the underlying issue causing the UI, but this is rare.
Medication For Urinary Incontinence
Duloxetine is an antidepressant that can help to strengthen the muscle tone in the urethra, which can resolve stress incontinence. An antimuscarinic medication may be used for those experiencing urge incontinence, which can help alleviate an overactive bladder. For patients who often have to urinate throughout the night, desmopressin can help to treat this issue by making the kidneys produce less urine throughout the night.
Urinary Incontinence Pads And Pull-Up Pants
Incontinence products like pads and pull-up pants can be invaluable for women experiencing urinary incontinence. They can help women to manage their incontinence, helping them feel more comfortable throughout their daily lives until they find a course of treatment that works for them. Absorbent pads and pull-up pants can absorb urine if a patient can’t get to the toilet in time and mask any odour that a patient may be worried about.
Many women with UI benefit from injections to the urethral sphincter. Bulkamid and other bulking agents work by bolstering the ring of muscles and preventing urine from leaking as easily. It can be invaluable for women with UI, as it can be done under local anaesthetic, with a short recovery time and instant results. Here at Phoenix Hospital Group, we offer the very best in Bulkamid treatment for females experiencing UI.
Botulinum toxin A injections can have a similarly beneficial effect on UI used to calm an overactive bladder. This treatment will usually need to be repeated every several months.
Surgery For Urinary Incontinence In Women
Surgery options for UI in women are often seen as a last resort. Some patients may not consider the risks of surgery to be worth it for a life free of UI, while others may want to do whatever it takes. It is a deeply personal decision that anyone experiencing UI should discuss with their doctor. Some of the most common surgical treatments include:
- Sling surgery: This involves a sling of tissue being wrapped around the bladder neck to support it and reduce UI.
- Colposuspension: This involves the neck of the bladder being repositioned and stitched into place.
- Vaginal mesh surgery: Mesh is inserted into the urethra to support it.
- Clean intermittent catheterisation: This involves the use of a catheter that allows a patient with UI to completely empty their bladder. This is most beneficial for those with overflow incontinence.
Book A Consultation
Help is at hand for women of any age who experience urinary incontinence. Here at Phoenix Hospital Group, we have a range of urology consultants who can help with any UI issue a patient may be dealing with. We pride ourselves on offering the best possible care, utilising all of the most cutting-edge advantages in medicine and technology to help our patients live full, happy and healthy lives. Book an appointment today to live a life free of urinary incontinence.