What is Urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. That means when a person cannot prevent urine from leaking out. Control over the urinary sphincter is either lost or weakened.
Urinary incontinence is more common among women than men. The loss of bladder control is a common and often embarrassing problem.
Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of ageing. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence Symptoms
Many people experience occasional, minor leaks of urine. Others may lose small to moderate amounts of urine more frequently.
The symptoms of urinary incontinence are different for different types. These include:
- Stress incontinence – Urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.
- Urge incontinence – You have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition, such as infection, or a more-severe condition such as a neurologic disorder or diabetes.
- Overflow incontinence – You experience frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn’t empty completely.
- Functional incontinence – A physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the toilet in time. For example, if you have severe arthritis, you may not be able to unbutton your pants quickly enough.
- Mixed incontinence – You experience more than one type of urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence Causes
Causes of chronic urinary retention
Overflow incontinence, also called chronic urinary retention, is often caused by a blockage or obstruction affecting your bladder.
Your bladder may fill up as usual, but because of an obstruction, you will not be able to empty it completely, even when you try.
At the same time, pressure from the urine that’s left in your bladder builds up behind the obstruction, causing frequent leaks.
Your bladder can be obstructed by:
- an enlarged prostate gland
- bladder stones
Overflow incontinence may also be caused by your detrusor muscles not fully contracting, which means your bladder does not completely empty when you urinate. As a result, the bladder becomes stretched.
Your detrusor muscles may not fully contract if:
- there’s damage to your nerves – for example, as a result of surgery to a part of your bowel or a spinal cord injury
- you’re taking certain medicines
Causes of total incontinence
Total incontinence is when your bladder cannot store any urine at all. It means you either pass large amounts of urine constantly, or you pass urine occasionally with frequent leaking in between.
Total incontinence can be caused by
- a problem with your bladder from birth
- injury to your spinal cord – this can disrupt the nerve signals between your brain and your bladder
- a bladder fistula – a small, tunnel-like hole that can form between the bladder and a nearby area, such as the vagina
- some medications, like diuretics, anti-hypertensive drugs, sleeping tablets, sedatives and muscle relaxants
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Urinary Incontinence Treatment
Medications commonly used to treat incontinence include:
- Anticholinergics- These medications can calm an overactive bladder and may be helpful for urge incontinence. Examples include oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), tolterodine (Detrol), darifenacin (Enablex), fesoterodine (Toviaz), solifenacin (Vesicare) and trospium (Sanctura).
- Mirabegron (Myrbetriq)-Used to treat urge incontinence, this medication relaxes the bladder muscle and can increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold. It may also increase the amount you are able to urinate at one time, helping to empty your bladder more completely.
- Alpha blockers-In men with urge or overflow incontinence, these medications relax bladder neck muscles and muscle fibres in the prostate and make it easier to empty the bladder. Examples include tamsulosin (Flomax), alfuzosin (Uroxatral), silodosin (Rapaflo), doxazosin (Cardura) and terazosin.
- Topical estrogen-For women, applying low-dose, topical estrogen in the form of a vaginal cream, ring or patch may help tone and rejuvenate tissues in the urethra and vaginal areas.
Devices designed to treat women with incontinence include:
- A urethral insert is a small, tampon-like disposable device inserted into the urethra before a specific activity, such as tennis, can trigger incontinence. The insert acts as a plug to prevent leakage and is removed before urination.
- Pessary, a stiff ring that you insert into your vagina and wear all day. The device is typically used in someone who has a prolapse that is causing incontinence. The pessary helps hold up your bladder, which lies near the vagina, to prevent urine leakage.
Interventional therapies that may help with incontinence include:
- Bulking material injections- A synthetic material is injected into tissue surrounding the urethra. The bulking material helps keep the urethra closed and reduces urine leakage. This procedure is generally much less effective than more-invasive treatments such as surgery for stress incontinence and usually needs to be repeated regularly.
- Botulinum toxin type A (Botox)- Injections of Botox into the bladder muscle may benefit people who have an overactive bladder. Botox is generally prescribed to people only if other first-line medications haven’t been successful.
- Nerve stimulators- A device resembling a pacemaker is implanted under your skin to deliver painless electrical pulses to the nerves involved in bladder control (sacral nerves). Stimulating the sacral nerves can control urge incontinence if other therapies haven’t worked. The device may be implanted under the skin in your buttock and connected to wires on the lower back, above the pubic area or with the use of a special device, inserted into the vagina.
If other treatments aren’t working, several surgical procedures can treat the problems that cause urinary incontinence:
- Sling procedures- Strips of your body’s tissue, synthetic material or mesh are used to create a pelvic sling around your urethra and the area of thickened muscle where the bladder connects to the urethra (bladder neck). The sling helps keep the urethra closed, especially when you cough or sneeze. This procedure is used to treat stress incontinence.
- Bladder neck suspension- This procedure is designed to provide support to your urethra and bladder neck — an area of thickened muscle where the bladder connects to the urethra. It involves an abdominal incision, so it’s done during general or spinal anaesthesia.
- Prolapse surgery- In women with mixed incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, surgery may include a combination of a sling procedure and prolapse surgery.
- Artificial urinary sphincter- In men, a small, fluid-filled ring is implanted around the bladder neck to keep the urinary sphincter shut until you’re ready to urinate. To urinate, you press a valve implanted under your skin that causes the ring to deflate and allows urine from your bladder to flow.
Natural Treatment For Urinary Incontinence
- Bladder training, to delay urination after you feel the urge to go. You may start by trying to hold off for 10 minutes every time you feel an urge to urinate. The goal is to lengthen the time between trips to the toilet until you’re urinating only every 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
- Double voiding, helps you learn to empty your bladder more completely to avoid overflow incontinence. Double voiding means urinating, then waiting a few minutes and trying again.
- Scheduled toilet trips, to urinate every two to four hours rather than waiting for the need to go.
- Fluid and diet management, to regain control of your bladder. You may need to cut back on or avoid alcohol, caffeine or acidic foods. Reducing liquid consumption, losing weight or increasing physical activity also can ease the problem.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises or Kegel exercises
Your doctor may recommend that you do these exercises frequently to strengthen the muscles that help control urination. These exercises are especially effective for stress incontinence but may also help urge incontinence.
To do pelvic floor muscle exercises, imagine that you’re trying to stop your urine flow. Then:
- Tighten (contract) the muscles you would use to stop urinating and hold for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. (If this is too difficult, start by holding for two seconds and relaxing for three seconds.)
- Work up to holding the contractions for 10 seconds at a time.
- Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions each day.
To help you identify and contract the right muscles, your doctor may suggest you work with a physical therapist or try biofeedback techniques.
Yogasana for Urinary Incontinence
- Gomukhasana (Cow’s Face Pose)
- Pawanmuktasana (Wind-Relieving Pose)
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist Pose)
- Uttanpadasana (Raised Leg Pose)
- Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
- Mula Bandha (The Root Lock)
Alternative therapies for urinary incontinence
Although research is limited, the following complementary or alternative treatments may prove useful remedies for OAB.
Some research suggests that acupuncture provides benefits for those with OAB symptoms. These benefits include reducing urgency and frequency of urination and improving quality of life.
Herbs for urinary incontinence
Several herbs and natural supplements have been recommended for the treatment of overactive bladder (OAB), although the research on these is limited:
- Gosha-jinki-gan: This blend of 10 traditional Chinese herbs can positively affect bladder contraction.
- Ganoderma lucidum: improves symptoms of urinary tract infections and OAB.
- Corn silk: A traditional medicine used for centuries for conditions, such as bladder irritation and nighttime incontinence.
- Capsaicin: This natural remedy comes from chilli peppers. It is effectively used for the treatment of overactive and highly sensitive bladders.
- Pumpkin seed extract: Beneficial for both nighttime urination and OAB.
- Magnesium hydroxide: These supplements were shown to improve symptoms of urinary incontinence and nocturia.
- Vitamin D: A 2010 study found that higher vitamin D levels were associated with a lower risk of pelvic floor disorders, such as bladder leaking, in women. Another study suggests a link between low vitamin D levels and episodes of bladder leaking in older adults.