Urinary incontinence is described as a loss of bladder control. It is a common problem amongst women young and old alike, although it is more prevalent in women in their 50’s and older. For many women, urinary incontinence is an embarrassing problem that they don’t like to talk about. It can take a serious toll on your quality of life. The constant worry of an embarrassing accident while at work or running errands can take an emotional toll on any woman. Urinary incontinence can also affect your body image and your sexuality.
Many women will choose to hide their condition as a result of their shame and embarrassment. They will not go to their doctor or even talk about it with other women because they believe it is a condition that will magically go away. However, it is important to be open and honest with your gynecologist about your symptoms early on so that you can find the relief you need to go on with living your life.
4 Types of Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence can be experienced as a trickle of urine on and off throughout the day. Other women may complain of wetting their clothing. There are four different types of incontinence:
Stress incontinence is the trickle of urine that can happen after laughing, coughing, or sneezing that puts any amount of stress on your bladder. There can be several causes of stress incontinence including pregnancy and childbirth when pelvic muscles can be stretched as the baby grows. As a result the tissue can become damaged. Stress incontinence can also be caused by contact sports, aging, or from being overweight.
Urge incontinence is the urgent need to urinate — often at only a few seconds to about a minute’s notice. This is followed by an involuntary flow of urine due to muscle spasms in the bladder that may stem from something as simple as a urinary tract infection, or more serious conditions like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. Urge incontinence can also be called overactive bladder.
Mixed incontinence is exactly what it sounds like — a mixture of stress and urge incontinence combined. Doctors tend to believe that mixed incontinence is more prevalent in women than either stress or urge incontinence alone.
Overflow incontinence is described as when it is difficult to empty your bladder when urinating. There is also a frequent trickle of urine. This may be caused by medications or complications from diabetes that damage bladder muscles or create blockages in the bladder that keep the urine from flowing on demand.
While discussing urinary incontinence with your Raleigh OBGYN may feel a bit embarrassing, it is important to work through it and have the discussion anyway. This is especially important if you feel that your life is scheduled around your ability to get to a bathroom. Some other reasons to make an appointment with your Raleigh OBGYN is if
you are having problems with blood in the urine
you are an older person who is at risk of falling and injuring yourself while rushing to the bathroom.
Tests for urinary incontinence may include a urinalysis and a blood test. Your gynecologist may ask you to complete a diary of how much you drink and eat, along with your urinary output.
Treatment for urinary incontinence
Treatment for urinary incontinence may include simple behavioral changes like retraining your bladder muscles, scheduling trips to the bathroom, or rearranging your fluid and food intake. Physical therapy to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles may also be an option. You may also opt to use incontinence pads and other protective garments or utilize a catheter if you have a problem with your bladder not emptying properly. More serious conditions may require medication, a medical device, or gynecological surgery.
What to do in the meantime
If you have already scheduled an appointment with your gynecologist, the waiting time may feel like an eternity. Here are some tips to help you to get through it:
Clean yourself with a wash cloth and allow the area to dry completely
Avoid over-washing or douching as it can aggravate a bladder infection
Try using a cream like petroleum jelly or cocoa butter to serve as a barrier on your skin