Incontinence is a common condition that involves the involuntary loss of urine. Although it is not usually a serious condition, incontinence can be embarrassing and affect a person's daily life. Incontinence is most common in women, especially during and after pregnancy, but can affect people of all ages.

Causes of Incontinence

Incontinence is often caused by a urinary tract infection or weak muscles in the urinary tract. Some medications may cause weak bladder muscles, therefore causing urinary incontinence. In some cases, incontinence can be a symptom of an underlying disorder such as pelvic organ prolapse, interstitial cystitis, or bladder cancer.

Symptoms of Incontinence

In addition to leaking urine, people with incontinence may also experience:

  • Strong desire to urinate
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Frequent urination
  • Nocturia - the need to urinate at night while sleeping
  • Painful urination

Types of Incontinence

There are three main types of urinary incontinence:

Urge - Urge incontinence is the most common and involves urine leakage that occurs after a sudden urge to urinate because the muscle wall of the bladder is overactive.

Stress - Stress incontinence is leakage of urine that occurs after an activity such as coughing, laughing or sneezing places pressure on the bladder.

Overflow - Overflow incontinence, occurs as the result of an inactive bladder muscle that does not completely empty the bladder after urination. This is the least common of the types of incontinence.

Diagnosis of Incontinence

Doctors can diagnose urinary incontinence through a series of tests and an evaluation of the patient's medical history. Patients may also be asked to keep a bladder or urination diary to record the frequency and circumstances of their urination troubles. Testing may begin with a pelvic exam to detect any physical abnormalities, and may also include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis

Upon completion of testing, the doctor will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and determine the cause of the condition in order to recommend the most appropriate treatment approach.

Treatment of Incontinence

There are many different treatment options available for urinary incontinence, depending on the severity of the condition. Conservative treatments are often effective, and may include:

  • Bladder training
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Medication to control pelvic muscle spasms
  • Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and prevent urine leakage

For more severe cases, the insertion of a medical device or surgery to provide support to the bladder, may be recommended to relieve symptoms.

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