What is Urinary Incontinence?
Bladder leakage (or urinary incontinence) is a medical condition shared by millions of women.1 To better understand bladder leakage, it is important to explain urinary incontinence and the different types of incontinence.
Urinary Incontinence (UI) is the involuntary loss of urine from the body. UI can be frequent or occasional. The loss of urine can range from a few dribbles to a complete emptying of the bladder.
There are several types of UI, including:
- Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) occurs when urine leaks during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or any movement that puts pressure (stress) on the bladder.
- Urge Urinary Incontinence involves the sudden and unstoppable loss of urine — the sudden urge to go.
- Mixed Urinary Incontinence is a combination of stress and urge incontinence.
- Overactive Bladder (OAB) is the urgent need to urinate. OAB can result in urinating with excessive frequency – more than eight times a day or more than once at night — as well as urgency, a strong and sudden desire to urinate. Overactive bladder is also referred to as urge incontinence.
There are many different types of urinary incontinence, but the most common are stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge incontinence, which can also be called overactive bladder (OAB). Women can often show symptoms from more than one category (mixed incontinence), so it is important to seek a specialist to ensure you find the treatment that is right for you.
What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) occurs when urine leaks during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or any movement that puts pressure (stress) on the bladder.
How does Stress Urinary Incontinence affect the bladder?
- Bladder leakage in SUI is due to the weakening of the pelvic muscles and tissue that normally support the bladder.
- In a standard functioning bladder, the muscles in your urethra stay closed to prevent urine from escaping the bladder until you have reached the bathroom.
- With SUI, however, any force that is exerted on the bladder through physical movement such as running, sneezing or laughing, may cause your bladder to leak since weakened pelvic muscles are no longer staying closed.
Not all women will experience SUI in the same way. Some women will only leak when they exercise vigorously or when they have a full bladder. Other women, however, may experience bladder leakage from daily living activities, such as walking or sneezing. While the amount of urine leakage may differ, at some point SUI may interfere with your activities, intrude on your social life, or be just plain inconvenient and embarrassing. Read stories of women who suffered from stress urinary incontinence and had surgery to take control of their condition here on FemalePelvicSolutions.
Causes of Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence can develop slowly as you age or may be a result of a specific event or factors such as:
- Previous pelvic surgery
Other conditions linked to stress urinary incontinence include depression, urinary tract infections, smoking, and diabetes. It can also occur with repetitive straining such as chronic coughing or high-impact activities such as aerobics and running.
Approximately 75% of women with bladder leakage do not discuss it with their healthcare provider.2
Tests for Stress Urinary Incontinence
How is urinary incontinence diagnosed?
As there are many different types of urinary incontinence which share the same symptoms, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis to ensure that the appropriate treatment is selected. The first step is to seek out a physician that specializes in Pelvic Floor Disorders such as urogyns as they have received special training to diagnose and treat women with urinary incontinence.
The first thing your physician will ask is for a complete rundown on your medical history, which includes any medication or supplements you may be taking. Next, your physician will want to know about your bladder leakage symptoms and when you experience them. Being as truthful as possible is important. It is easy to become embarrassed or uncomfortable, but accurately describing your symptoms is the first step to finding a solution.
After you have discussed your medical history, a physical exam will often be conducted. Your specialist may look to see if you have any additional pelvic floor disorders that may be related to your bladder leakage. Next, your physician may ask you to do a “cough test” to see how well your bladder holds up to stress during normal daily activities. Your physician could also ask you to do an “at home pad test”. This test will help to estimate how much you are leaking throughout the day to determine the severity of your urinary incontinence. There are bladder imaging and bladder function tests that can also be conducted if your physician needs additional information to diagnose your symptoms accurately.
What are Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?
Do you show symptoms that could identify stress urinary incontinence? Read the bullets below and ask yourself if you leak during any of the activities. If you say yes to one or more, you may have symptoms of stress incontinence and should consult with your doctor.
Do you leak urine during the following activities?
- Heavy Lifting
- Physical Activity
- During Intercourse
Remember, although these signs and symptoms can alert you to a problem, they are not unique to stress incontinence, so it is important to consult a doctor for the correct diagnosis. If you’re considering surgery, learn what to ask your doctor and what to expect from the surgery from the website FemalePelvicSolutions.
FAQs: Stress Urinary Incontinence
We’ve compiled some of the most common questions that women ask when learning about stress urinary incontinence. Read for yourself to learn more about stress urinary incontinence causes, symptoms and treatment options.
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the loss of voluntary control over your urinary functions. Approximately 18 million women in the U.S. suffer from urinary incontinence. That's 1 in 4 women over the age of 18.3
Are there different types of urinary incontinence?
Yes. The most common types are stress, urge and mixed, which is a combination of the two. Stress incontinence happens when urine leaks during coughing, laughing or exercise because the urethra does not function properly. Urge incontinence involves the sudden sensation of the need to urinate that can be hard to put off — the sudden urge to go. Mixed is a combination of stress and urge incontinence.
What causes female stress urinary incontinence?
Female stress incontinence generally occurs when your pelvic muscles are not strong enough to keep the opening of the bladder neck closed when there’s pressure on your bladder from laughing, coughing, lifting, exercising or other activities that cause abdominal pressure. It can slowly develop as you age and may be the result of a specific event such as childbirth, or be a result of smoking, obesity or other previous tissue traumas in the area.
Can stress urinary incontinence be successfully treated?
Yes, stress urinary incontinence can frequently be treated with women seeing their symptoms improve.4 It is quite common for life events like childbirth or menopause to contribute to bladder leakage, but that does not mean that bladder leakage is considered normal at any age. There are many different treatment options available for stress urinary incontinence. It is important to discuss the problem with your doctor to find out what treatment may be right for you. Find out what to ask your doctor from the website FemalePelvicSolutions here.
3) Statistics from the National Association for Continence April 28, 2013.
4) https://www.voicesforpfd.org/bladder-control/treatments/_Downloaded 5.25.18