If you're 18 or older and have experienced trouble controlling your bladder, you may be diagnosed with urinary incontinence. It's a common problem, especially for women — over 30% of them will experience it at some point in their lives. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to combat it!
In this blog post, I'm going to go over what urinary incontinence is, the potential causes and treatments for it, as well as how you know if you're experiencing it.
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence, also known as incontinence of the bladder, is a condition where you cannot control and empty your bladder. It can happen for many different reasons, but there are several common causes (most of which are preventable!) which I'll go over below.
Causes of urinary incontinence:
As we get older, we tend to retain more fluid in the body, leading to problems with urine retention and incontinence. As a result, older adults are much more likely to experience this condition than younger people.
Childbirth – giving birth can be hard on your body! There are usually no serious complications, but there is potential for weakened pelvic floor muscles, making you much more likely to experience urinary incontinence later in life. If your doctor thinks that you are at risk of problems down the road due to childbirth, they may suggest exercises and lifestyle changes to prevent this problem.
Clothing choice – choosing the wrong types of clothing can cause problems with incontinence! Tight or restrictive clothing can put pressure on your bladder, leading to a weak urine stream or unintentional leakage. On the other hand, very loose clothing can lead to a drop in urine production, contributing to this condition. One way that you can start to avoid this problem is to buy loose-fitting clothing.
Exercise – exercise plays a role in our overall health and wellbeing, and urinary incontinence can be a problem when you're overdoing it! While exercise helps strengthen your muscles, working out in specific ways or for too long can cause strain on the pelvic floor muscles. Over time, you may lose strength and build up scar tissue around these muscles, making it harder for you to urine typically. My personal experience with this was that the first few times I did exercises that involved a lot of jumping or jumping up and down, I had some issues with leakage. It took a little while to get used to the exercise and for my bladder to handle it, but now I'm able to do those activities without any problems!
Muscle tension – stress is a natural part of life, but when we constantly have a lot of anxiety or stress, it can lead to weak pelvic floor muscles. This is especially true for women, who are more likely to experience urinary incontinence due to hormones and emotions like stress.
Too much alcohol – yes, too much alcohol can lead to incontinence. This is something that many people don't want to hear, but the truth is that alcohol can weaken the bladder and paralysis the pelvic muscles.
Medicine/Medication – some medications have been associated with urinary incontinence. Things like antidepressants and other medicines used to treat anxiety or depression have been shown to cause urinary infections and lead to the loss of urine control. If you are taking medication for depression or anxiety, I would recommend checking with your doctor to see if there is a different treatment that you can try instead.
Urinary incontinence can also be caused by physical injuries and the following conditions:
prostatectomy – men who have had a prostatectomy are more likely to experience incontinence, especially if their surgery took place later in life. This is because the prostate gland and bladder are closely related, so when the prostate is removed, it can cause problems with urination.
Urinary incontinence can have a severe impact on your life, but there are many ways to avoid it and some treatment options as well. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from this condition:
Avoid caffeine and alcohol: These two things aren't healthy for you in large amounts, and they both lead to bladder problems. Caffeine dehydrates your body, leading to weak urination, while alcohol interferes with the nerve signals that move urine from the bladder out to the urethra. There is also a chance that mixing caffeine and alcohol could make this problem worse. Exercising – This might sound a little counter-intuitive since going out and exercising when you have urinary incontinence is counterproductive. However, if you keep up a regular workout regime, you'll be sure to keep your bladder healthy and robust. In addition to keeping your bladder strong, exercise will clear fluids from the body, which prevents them from being retained and leaking.