What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary Incontinence happens when there is a malfunction between the storing and passing of urine. This can happen for a number of reasons and there are different types discussed below. It’s an alarmingly common problem. Did you know that one in three women aged between 35 – 55 and 50% of women over 55 have some sort of urinary leaking? That’s huge! It’s estimated over 9 million women in the UK bravely struggle on with some sort of bladder issue. Due to clever advertising of sanitary wear available on the market, women think that it’s normal as they get older or after they have a baby. It’s not normal and it doesn’t have to be a long-term issue – there is so much help available.
This happens when the increasing pressure in your filling bladder overpowers the strength of your urethra. The Urethra is the tube that you pass urine from. Any sudden increase in pressure around the bladder, for example sneezing and laughing, can cause incontinence. Physical activities which exert more stress on the bladder (hence “stress” incontinence) can lead to the condition. All these situations can be too much for the pelvic floor and urethra to cope with which can cause the leaking of urine.
80% of stress incontinence can be cured by pelvic floor exercises within four months. Say what?!? Yes that’s right just by understanding what and where your pelvic floor is and how to use it effectively your bladder issues are likely to resolve. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence advocate pelvic floor exercises. These should be given to a patient before considering any other form of treatment.
Discussions of the issues “down below” can be embarrassing topics but they don’t have to be. These are hugely prevalent conditions which need to be talked about because that daily struggle for so many needn’t continue.
Urge incontinence is when you have an urgent desire to pass urine and sometimes you can leak urine before getting to the toilet in time. It is commonly caused by an ‘overactive bladder’. The over activity is usually at the bladder muscle called the detrusor. This normally contracts with a corresponding relaxation of your pelvic floor and urethra to allow you to pass urine. With an overactive bladder the detrusor can contract earlier than expected. This will give you the feeling of needing to pass urine urgently. Messages sent to the brain to tell you your bladder is starting to get full are also sent too early when the bladder isn’t really full enough. You may therefore experience increased frequency to go to the toilet.
Strategies to help reduce symptoms of urgency include pelvic floor strengthening, bladder calming and re-training. Medical management and lifestyle factors such as sugar, caffeine, smoking and alcohol are also known to irritate the bladder. These can make your symptoms worse. Many people living with urge incontinence drink less to stop going to the toilet. This can make your symptoms worse as reducing your fluid increases the concentration of urine which further irritates the bladder. Normal fluid intake should be between 1.5-2 litres so see how you compare to this. If it’s too little drink more water/decaffeinated drinks and too much, cut it down.
This type of incontinence is a mixture of both stress and urge. A women’s health physiotherapist can help you for both types. If you have any concerns at all and would like to come for a friendly, confidential and reassuring chat, book an appointment.