What is Incontinence?

Incontinence, or the accidental loss of urine, is a problem that affects nearly 13 million Americans each year*. Incontinence in women can occur at any age, but it is more common in women over 50.

The Four Major Types of Urinary Incontinence

Stress Incontinence: This type of urine leakage occurs while coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, lifting heavy objects, or doing anything that puts pressure on the bladder.

Urgency or Urge Incontinence: Described as the inability to hold urine long enough to reach a restroom, urgency incontinence can be associated with more frequent urination. It may be an indication that a separate disease or condition is present. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are a common cause of frequent urination and are often easily treated. Always consult with a doctor to find out if there is a reason why you feel the need to urinate more frequently than usual.

Functional Incontinence: Urine leakage that is a result of an inability to reach a restroom in time because of a mobility issue is described as functional incontinence. This type of incontinence may happen because of an injury, arthritis, or any other condition that inhibits movement.

Overflow Incontinence: Overflow incontinence occurs when the volume of urine produced exceeds the bladder’s capacity to hold it, and it too can be a result of an underlying condition that you should discuss with your doctor.

How is Incontinence Treated?

A treatment plan should be determined only after consultation with your doctor. They will take your age, health, and medical history into consideration and discuss possible treatments based on your tolerance for different kinds of medications and the various therapies available.

In discussing urinary incontinence with your doctor, nurse, home health aide, or family caregiver, you will certainly learn about the many exercises and steps to treat it and to complement them with pads or protective underwear. (source: womenshealth.gov)

Incontinence can be treated in many different ways, including dietary changes, behavioral therapies, medicine regimens, pelvic muscle re-education, in-office procedures, and surgery.

Dietary Changes: Your doctor may recommend eliminating bladder irritants, such as alcohol, caffeine, and citrus fruits.

Behavioral Therapies: Common therapies include bladder training and toileting assistance. Bladder training techniques teach you how to resist the urge to urinate and gradually lengthen the duration between urinating. Toileting assistance uses schedules and habits to prompt you to urinate regularly, thus preventing leakage.

Medicine Regiments: Your doctor may prescribe anticholinergic medications. These work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, a type of neurotransmitter. Blocking acetylcholine inhibits involuntary muscle movements, and may be prescribed for overactive bladder and incontinence. Be sure to discuss the side effects, particularly for elderly patients. Vaginal estrogen may also be considered to help ease stress incontinence in particular.

Pelvic Muscle Re-education: A variety of methods to help improve muscle tone may be recommended to help prevent leakage, including Kegel exercises, vaginal weight training, biofeedback, and pelvic floor electrical stimulation. These techniques cause the muscles to contract and can help strengthen pelvic muscles.

Kegel Exercises: Many things can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, including pregnancy and childbirth, obesity, chronic straining or coughing, and aging. Kegel exercises can be done anywhere, anytime, and help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum.

In-Office Procedures: Botox injections into the bladder, urethral bulking agents, and peripheral nerve stimulation are all procedures that can usually be done in your doctor’s office and may help alleviate urinary incontinence in women.

Surgery: Bladder suspension, peripheral nerve stimulation, and slings are all surgeries that your doctor may consider depending on your age and overall health.

What Options Are Available to Help Manage Incontinence?

To help manage incontinence day-to-day, many women wear protective pads, pull up-style disposable underwear, or adult diapers (also called tabbed briefs), depending on their age, level of need, and mobility.

There are also more Washable Incontinence Underwear choices available for those with light to moderate incontinence wanting a more discreet option that looks and feels like traditional underwear.

Brooke worked as a home health and hospice nurse for many years. During her time working with patients and families, she saw the pressures and strain of what caregivers went through while caring for loved ones. Lack of resources to help caregivers prompted her to start a support group for caregivers in her area. Since then Brooke has turned to writing courses for nurses and content writing. In her spare time, she enjoys time with family, her dog and travel.