What is urinary incontinence?
More common in women than men, urinary incontinence is where urine leaks out of the vagina or penis unintentionally. This can happen at any time of the day or night and can be both embarrassing and inconvenient for the individual with the condition. The amount of leaked urine can range from a few tiny droplets to an involuntary flood, depending upon the severity of the condition.
The good news is that, in the vast majority of cases, urinary incontinence can be appropriately treated and cured.
Symptoms of urinary incontinence include:
Passing urine when you don’t want to
Urine leakages triggered by sudden body movements, such as coughing and/or laughing
Bloated bladder (a feeling of pressure on the bladder, even though you have just visited the toilet)
The sudden urge to pass urine
Problems emptying the bladder fully, even though you have already passed a large amount of urine
Note: Many people with severe urinary incontinence develop depressive illness due to struggling to cope with their condition. Please see contact details for the Depression Alliance in the Advice & Support section at the foot of this article.
Urinary incontinence is generally an expected part of the ageing process – the pelvic floor muscles gradually become weaker with the passing of the years.
However, other causes of urinary incontinence can include:
Bladder problems (i.e. the nerves in and around the bladder)
If you have recently had a baby
As a result of reaching the menopause
If you have Parkinson’s disease or a stroke
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, arrange an appointment with your GP. They will take your medical history and ask your some questions about your symptoms.
A urine sample may be taken, to check for possible infection.
You may then be referred to an urologist for further tests. Once a confirmed diagnosis of urinary incontinence has been made, an appropriate treatment will then be recommended to you.
Effect on your life
For most people with urinary incontinence, their condition can be embarrassing and inconvenient. The sudden urge to pass urine (through urge incontinence) can make life very difficult. Needing to find a toilet in an emergency can obviously have an adverse effect on your work, social and family life.
You may find that wearing special underwear called incontinence pants (normal pants but with a plastic pad inside) helps to absorb the leaking urine.
Urinary incontinence can be cured.
As well as prescribed medications, treatments include:
Bladder training – this can be particularly helpful in reducing the sudden urge to find a toilet
Pelvic floor exercises – to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and help prevent urine from leaking involuntarily
Advice on weight-loss and controlling the amount you drink
Hormone replacement therapy – this can sometimes be effective in reducing urinary incontinence in women at the post-menopause stage of their lives.
Advice & Support
The Bladder and Bowel Foundation
Nurse Helpline: 0845 345 0165
The Cystitis and Overactive Bladder Foundation
Tel. 01908 569169
Tel. 0845 123 23 20
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