Urinary Incontinence: Frequently Asked Questions
Urinary incontinence (UI) is the involuntary loss of urine and its severity can vary from person to person. Some may “leak” a few drops of urine when they cough. Others may feel strong, sudden urges to urinate that can’t be controlled. While others may lose some urine during sexual activity. The good news is that urinary incontinence is generally a very treatable condition. However, it is important to have a good and complete evaluation prior to treatment. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding urinary incontinence.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom. It can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems. In men, prostate surgery is probably the most common reason for urinary incontinence. A thorough evaluation by your doctor can help determine what’s behind your incontinence.
Is Urinary Incontinence A Normal Part Of Getting Older?
No it is not, however it does affect a large percentage of the senior population. As stated prior, urinary incontinence is NOT a disease, it is a symptom, but it can be treated once the underlying cause has been determined.
What Are The Different Types Of UI?
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) is the most common type of incontinence. The “stress” in this incontinence refers to a physical stress that’s placed on the urinary system, such as a cough, sneeze, or laugh.
Overflow Incontinence Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder is constantly full, and reaches a point where it overflows and leaks urine. This condition can occur when the urethra is blocked due to causes such as kidney or urinary stones, tumors, or an enlarged prostate. It may also be the result of weak bladder muscles, due to nerve damage from diabetes or other diseases.
Urge Incontinence Urge incontinence is incontinence after feeling a sudden urge to urinate with inability to control the bladder, such as while sleeping, drinking water or listening to water running.
Functional Incontinence Functional incontinence occurs when physical disabilities, external obstacles, or problems in thinking or communicating prevent a person from getting to a bathroom before they urinate.
How Is Urinary Incontinence Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you questions, such as how often you empty your bladder, when you leak urine and how much urine you leak. Your doctor will also have you undergo a physical exam to check for signs of health problems that could cause your problem. They may also may order tests, such as:
- Urinalysis to test for signs of infection
- Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to provide a picture of the bladder, kidneys and urethra
- Cystoscopy, a procedure to look at your urethra and bladder using a tiny camera
- Urodynamics, a series of tests to provide information about the function of bladder and urinary muscles
Based on your medical history, exam and test results, your doctor usually can determine the cause of urinary incontinence.
How Is Urinary Incontinence Treated?
Treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the type of incontinence, how severe it is, and what may be causing it. There is no single solution to incontinence that works for everyone. Many men are able to regain control by changing their lifestyle and doing exercises to help build their bladder muscles. For others, medicines that slow the production of urine or help manage nerve impulses work well. For some men with urinary incontinence caused by nerve damage, surgery may be the best option. Some of the common procedures include:
Artificial sphincter, an implanted device that keeps the urethra closed until men are able to urinate. The device includes a cuff that fits around the urethra, a small balloon inserted in the abdomen and a pump placed in the scrotum. When it is time to urinate, the man squeezes the pump to open up the cuff so that urine moves into the balloon and flows out the urethra.
Male sling, is a surgery that provides extra support for the urethra. The surgeon wraps a strip of material around the urethra and attaches the ends to the pelvic bone. This puts more pressure on the urethra so it doesn’t release urine accidentally.
All of these treatments can significantly improve the quality of life for men faced with the embarrassment and inconvenience of urinary incontinence.