November is Bladder Health Month! Now's the perfect time to figure out what is ailing your bladder, so you can take action to get it back up and running in the background where it belongs, and stop thinking about it so often. We'll discuss different bladder conditions each week. What’s up for this week? Urinary Incontinence.
What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence simply refers to any involuntary loss of urine.
Did you know:
One third of postpartum women have urinary leakage at one year after baby
Incontinence affects nearly HALF of women age 50–80 and of those women:
79% reported leakage with sneezing or coughing,
64% leaked on the way to the bathroom,
49% lost urine while laughing, and
37% had leakage while exercising
1 in 5 men over the age of 65 have urinary leakage
The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from the occasional leaking of urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge or that "gotta go" feeling that's so sudden and strong, you may not make it to the bathroom in time.
Research shows that pelvic physical therapy is first-line treatment for all types of urinary incontinence, so if leakage is a problem for you, it's a great place to start!
Keep in mind that not all leakage is created equally—there are different causes of urinary incontinence, as well as differences in the types which typically affect women and men. Let's look at these separately:
Common types of urinary incontinence in women include:
Stress incontinence is leakage that occurs with activity, such as coughing, sneezing, lifting, standing up from a chair or exercising. It is often related to weak and/or sluggish pelvic floor muscles and so strengthening these important muscles and learning how to activate them quickly are crucial first steps in addressing stress incontinence.
Urge incontinence and Overactive Bladder Syndrome
Urge incontinence is leakage that occurs when you get an overly strong urge to urinate and you can't make it to the bathroom in time. It also includes bladder symptoms such as:
having to go to the bathroom frequently (more than 6-8 times in a 24 hour period)
having to rush to get to the bathroom in time
having an overly strong urge sensation when you have to go
waking up at night more than once to empty your bladder
If you have these symptoms but do NOT leak, it is called overactive bladder syndrome. If you have these symptoms and DO leak, it is called urge incontinence.
Bladder retraining techniques, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and following healthy bladder habits help get overactive bladder symptoms under control.
Mixed incontinence is when you leak in both these types of situations, and is quite common in women. In this case, it is important to treat both your stress and urge incontinence to get effective relief.
Common types of urinary incontinence in men include:
Post micturition dribble
Post micturition dribble (commonly known as "after-dribble") is when men experience an involuntary loss of urine immediately after they have finished passing urine, usually after leaving the toilet. Although the exact etiology is not fully understood, weakness of the pelvic floor muscles is considered to be the most important factor. Strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles, as well as something called bulbar urethral massage have been shown to be effective in treating this bothersome and embarrassing problem.
Just as in women, stress incontinence is leakage that occurs with activity, such as coughing, sneezing, lifting, standing up from a chair or exercising. In men, this is most common following prostate surgery or other pelvic surgery. Pelvic floor muscle training is first-line treatment.
Urge incontinence and Overactive Bladder Syndrome
Again, just as in women, men can experience urge incontinence and overactive bladder syndrome. It is more common with advancing age, and often, an enlarged prostate is to blame. Bladder retraining techniques, optimizing your pelvic floor muscle strength and following healthy bladder habits can help.
Overflow incontinence is a less common type of leakage. It can occur when the bladder has trouble fully emptying, such as because of an enlarged prostate, or neurologic diseases such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. When the bladder can't fully empty, it can get too full and overflow, causing you to frequently leak or dribble urine.
Why is it so important to know what type of urinary incontinence you have?
Simply put, if you don't know what is causing your leakage, you can't effectively treat it. The exercises and strategies to treat each of these types of incontinence can differ dramatically, so before you jump in and start doing 1000's of kegels willy-nilly, stop and figure out what type of incontinence you may be dealing with. 🤔
Not sure what type of leakage you have? Take our quiz to help you find the answer, and receive personalized guidance in your inbox to get you started on better bladder control.
Still don't know where to start? Let me guide you. For 20 years I've been helping people of all ages conquer their bladder leakage, and I'd love to help you too. Schedule a free virtual appointment with me and I'll be happy to point you down the right path to a calmer bladder. 😊
Stay tuned for Week 2 of Bladder Health Month, where we will discuss bladder infections, interstitial cystitis and neurogenic bladder...
Happy Bladder Health Month!
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About the Author:
Angela is the owner of My Pelvic Therapy, PLLC and a licensed physical therapist. Prior to starting her telehealth private practice, she worked as a senior physical therapist for 17 years at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, specializing in helping both women and men overcome their pelvic floor challenges. She received her physical therapy degree from Duke University, biology degree from University of Illinois, and is a lifelong learner of all things PT.