Urinary Incontinence, in simple words, is the involuntary passing of urine i.e. a person not being able to control the urination process.
In Asia itself, there are a multitude of people who struggle with this condition, some having severe urinary incontinence, and some battling milder forms such as an overactive bladder. In India alone, there are 24 million people affected by it.
A recent study conducted by the Indian Journal of Urology to find out the number of Indian Women affected by Urinary Incontinence revealed that a whopping 21.8% of the survey participants were suffering from the condition.
Let’s learn more about the different kinds of incontinence, their symptoms, and causes.
Stress Incontinence: Urine leaks out when your bladder is under pressure. This doesn’t have anything to do with stress. The amount of Urine passed is small, but sometimes, large amounts of Urine can leak out when the bladder is full.
Urine can leak out while:
- Heavy lifting
The Urethra is the tube through which urine passes out of your body. Stress Incontinence takes place when the pressure inside the bladder, as it fills with urine, exceeds the urethra’s ability to stay closed. This occurs due to having weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles or when the urethral splinter i.e the ring of the muscles which keeps the urethra closed, is damaged.
This damage can occur due to:
- Pregnancy: When a child is born vaginally instead of a Caesarian section.
- Being Pregnant or Obese: This leads to an increased pressure on the tummy, making it difficult to control urination.
- Damage caused directly to the bladder or areas close to it: A hysterectomy in women and a removal of prostate gland in men.
- Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis
- Connective tissue disorders – Such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
- Certain medications
Urge Incontinence: Urine leaks out as soon as you feel a strong urge to urinate or soon after. The time difference between when you feel a strong urge to urinate and the time when the urine actually passes out is only a few seconds.
- You may feel the need to urinate by something as minute as a sudden change in position or by the sound of running water.
- You also may urinate during sex, especially when you reach orgasm.
- This comes under the larger group of symptoms known as Overactive Bladder Syndrome. Overactive Bladder Syndrome results in the need to pass small amounts of urine throughout the day and getting up several times at night to urinate.
Urge Incontinence occurs due to the inefficient functioning of the Detrusor Muscles, in the walls of the bladder. The Detrusor Muscles relax when the bladder fills with urine and contract while urinating. In case of an overactive bladder, these muscles contract too often, creating the need to urinate as often.
The following are the possible reasons for the Detrusor Muscles’ inefficiency:
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
- Neurological conditions
- Certain medications
- Poor fluid intake
- Conditions affecting the Lower Urinary Tract such as Urinary Tract Infections or tumours in the bladder
Mixed Incontinence: Mixed Incontinence is a combination of the symptoms of Stress and Urge Incontinence. You may feel the need to urinate when you laugh or you may have the sudden urge to urinate.
- It would feel that your bladder is never really empty and you can’t even empty it out despite trying.
- This causes the bladder to swell above its actual size, and one feels the need to pass small amounts of urine throughout the day.
It is caused by the Obstruction of the bladder, which can be caused by:
- An enlarged prostate gland (In Men)
- Bladder stones
It also takes place when your Detrusor Muscles don’t fully contract. This could be due to:
- Certain medications
- Surgery of the Bowel or Spinal Cord Injury
Overflow Incontinence: Overflow Incontinence, also known as Chronic Urinary Retention occurs when you can’t entirely empty out your bladder while urinating.
Total Incontinence: When Urinary Incontinence is severe and constant, it is known as Total Incontinence.
- You may want to constantly urinate during the night
- You may pass large amounts of urine occasionally or leak small amounts of urine in between.
- Injury to the Spinal Cord
- A problem with your bladder since birth
- A bladder fistula, which is a small tunnel-like hole, which can form between the bladder and the vagina, in women.
The various preventive measures for Urinary Incontinence include:
- Drinking Plenty of Fluids
- Eating a high fibre diet
- Physical activity
- Giving up smoking
- Seeking immediate medical care and treating Urinary Tract Infections promptly.
- Good Toilet Habits such as going to the toilet only when your bladder is full, by allowing urine and bowels to pass at their own time, and by not delaying going to the toilet to pass bowel motions.
If you identify with these symptoms, don't ignore them. And more importantly, don't wallow in shame. Like you, there are many women suffering from Urinary Incontinence worldwide. Walk up to the nearest doctor and get your treatment started.