What is female urinary incontinence?
Incontinence is not a specific condition, but the presence of certain symptoms—primarily, the leakage of urine. If you are experiencing urinary incontinence you certainly are not alone. It’s estimated that some 15 million women in the U.S. cope with the condition and its impact on life quality. While incontinence is generally not common among younger women, the incidence increases after childbirth and is not uncommon among post-menopausal women.
Urologists address all four types of female urinary incontinence
- Stress incontinence. This diagnosis refers to leakage of urine due to physical activity—from light or strenuous exercise or simple actions such as sneezing, coughing or laughing
- Urge incontinence. This is experienced as a strong, intense urge to urinate, followed by urine leakage. It can occur even when one has just gone to the bathroom.
- Mixed incontinence. Sometimes, a woman experiences symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence at the same time.
- Overflow incontinence. Certain conditions can result in the bladder never emptying completely, so that leakage occurs as excess urine collects.
How is urinary incontinence treated?
Treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the source of the problem. Once the cause is diagnosed, a urologist may recommend a therapeutic regimen involving one of more of the following
- Medications, including prescription drugs to calm the bladder, increase bladder capacity or rejuvenate tissues in the urethra and vaginal areas
- Bladder training, to lengthen the time between one’s need to urinate
- Lifestyle changes, including dietary adjustments and stress-relief measures
- Electrical stimulation, to strengthen pelvic wall muscles
- Physical therapy, including pelvic floor muscle exercises and more
- Medical devices to control urine flow
- Interventional therapies, including injections or surgery