Urinary incontinence is a common medical condition that affects many women at various stages in their lives. It’s also a subject of embarrassment for patients, even though there’s no reason to feel shame.
At All About Women, we believe this shouldn’t be a taboo topic to discuss with healthcare professionals or loved ones, especially since it can be easily treated in many cases with experienced gynecological care.
When most people talk about urinary incontinence, they are generally referring to bladder control, which is a biological process involving the use of certain muscles. Various factors can affect the normal interaction of sphincter muscles as they interact with the urethra. Evaluating optimal urinary function and treating related issues falls within the realm of urology and gynecology.
Before getting into the reasons why women encounter this condition, we should clear the air with regard to certain misconceptions.
First of all, loss of bladder control is not something that only affects women; men can have it too, but it usually surfaces later in life. If anything, quite a few women are able to enjoy optimal bladder function in their golden years. It’s quite normal for women to go through episodes of incontinence during certain physiological stages such as pregnancy and childbirth, hormonal changes, weight fluctuation and stress.
The type of urine leakage that women may experience can be described as follows:
In and of itself, loss of bladder control is not a disease; rather, it is often a symptom or a condition resulting from other health issues.
Drinking copious amounts of water will greatly fill the bladder, but other substances such as liquor and coffee have a greater biochemistry effect, thus metabolizing into diuretics. Citrus fruits, hot peppers and other foods that contain high levels of vitamin C can also increase the urge to evacuate the bladder, even before it’s filled to capacity. A few medications may also provoke incontinence as a side effect, such as high blood pressure pills and muscle relaxants.
With aging, the muscle tissue that lines the bladder loses fiber quality and strength, thus diminishing bladder capacity. The bladder is more likely to contract with greater frequency after the age of 60.
With regard to pregnancy, there are hormonal changes that can increase urinary frequency. Moreover, there is also the weight of the baby, which places greater pressure on the bladder. In natural childbirth, the passage of the baby will stress not only the bladder but also the nerve endings that stimulate urinary function.
During menopause, many women may go through a sharp decrease in estrogen, a hormone that contributes to the overall health of bladder muscle tissue. Women who undergo hysterectomy procedures may experience incontinence because of the surgical damage suffered by the muscle tissue in the pelvic floor.
In general, surgical procedures in the female reproductive system may stress internal muscle tissues, thus inhibiting urinary function and causing incontinence. This can also occur because of localized anesthesia applications.
Whenever stool gets compacted and hardens in the rectum, the nerves that normally stimulate the bladder will come into action, thus sending mixed signals to the bladder and potentially resulting in urge incontinence.
Infections caused by E-coli, the mycoplasma bacterium and chlamydia can result in an irritated bladder, thus leading to incontinence. Bacterial cystitis is also caused by infections, and it commonly involves urge incontinence that results in patients passing small amounts of cloudy urine. Repeated urinary tract infections will prolong incontinence episodes.
It is important to keep in mind that bladder muscles are activated by nerve signals. Patients who live with conditions such as Parkinson's disease or sclerosis are more likely to deal with the loss of bladder control.
Bladder cancer is more common among men; however, the American Urological Association reported 16,000 women suffering from this condition in 2016. When this happens, there is a potential of tumors developing along the urinary system, thus obstructing paths and causing overflow incontinence. Hematuria, the presence of blood in the urine stream, is a common sign of bladder cancer.
Now that you know about some of the common causes of urinary incontinence in women, taking the next step towards diagnosis and treatment should be done as early as possible.
At All About Women, our patients in Lake City, Gainesville and all across the northern region of Florida come to us for our compassionate OB/GYN specialists who have considerable experience treating urinary incontinence in women.
Remember that losing control of your bladder is often a symptom of other underlying diseases or conditions, so it is important to seek care and treatment right away.