Urinary incontinence is a symptom and not an individual condition. It can be caused by an array of factors. Temporary urinary incontinence can occur when a person uses something that acts as a diuretic, triggering increased urine volume. The common causes of this include:
Spicy, acidic or sugary foods
Getting too much vitamin C
Certain medications, including blood pressure drugs, muscle relaxers, heart medications and sedatives
Urinary incontinence can also be persistent, and the causes may include:
This condition is characterized by not being able to effectively control urine. How much urine a person loses varies in both frequency and volume. There are five primary types of incontinence that affect patients:
Urge incontinence is characterized by an intense and sudden urge to urinate. The end result is an involuntary urine loss. With this type, patients may need to urinate frequently. Certain conditions may be the underlying cause, such as infection, diabetes or a neurologic disorder.
Functional incontinence usually involves a mental or physical impairment that stops the patient from being able to get to the bathroom in time. For example, if someone has severe arthritis, the mobility restriction can make it hard to get to the toilet promptly.
Stress incontinence is associated with stress on the bladder causing urine leaks. Stresses can include coughing, laughing, heavy lifting, sneezing, or exercise.
Overflow incontinence is characterized by the bladder not fully emptying, causing a constant or frequent dribble of urine.
Mixed incontinence is when the patient has more than one type.
Once a doctor establishes the type of urinary incontinence a patient has and the underlying cause, there are different treatment options that may be beneficial. Behavioral techniques are common and may include bladder training, scheduled toilet trips, double voiding, and diet and fluid management.
Pelvic floor exercises help to control urination by strengthening the muscles that are responsible for it. This might include electrical stimulation. Additionally, there are medications that are sometimes prescribed:
Anticholinergics to calm an overactive bladder
Alpha blockers to relax the muscles of the bladder neck
Topical estrogen to aid in toning urethral tissues
Women may explore medical devices to improve their incontinence. The first is a pessary that is worn all day after being inserted into the vagina and prevents urine leakage. The second is a urethral insert. This is structured similarly to a tampon and prevents leakage.
Patients might also consider surgical treatments if nothing else provides relief. For example, the sling procedure can keep the bladder closed for those with stress incontinence. If a pelvic organ prolapse is causing a person’s incontinence, surgery to correct it might be needed.