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Understanding the Different Types of Urinary Incontinence
Millions of people struggle with urinary incontinence, which is the loss of bladder control. Even though it’s common, many sufferers don’t see a urologist or gynecologist because they’re embarrassed. Urinary incontinence doesn’t only affect people physically but emotionally.
The two main types of incontinence are stress urinary and overactive bladder; some people suffer from both, resulting in mixed incontinence. Understanding the different types of urinary incontinence can help you find the proper treatment or product and help you enjoy life again!
Temporary versus Chronic Incontinence
A range of factors can cause urinary incontinence. If you’re experiencing an urgent need to use the bathroom, awakening constantly through the night to urinate, or have urine leakage, you’ll want to see your doctor.
However, not all incontinence comes from a chronic condition. Some foods, drinks, and medications can cause temporary incontinence symptoms, for example:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Foods that are spicy, sugary, or acidic
- Heart and blood pressure medication
Check-in with your doctor to ensure you don’t have any underlying issues.
Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress Urinary incontinence (SUI) is one of the most common types and usually occurs in older people. Typically, SUI is more prevalent in older women than men.
Any physical activity can push on the bladder and cause leaks. Some examples include exercise like walking, lifting, or bending. Coughing, sneezing, or laughing can even cause leaking. Depending on the severity of SUI, anywhere from a few drops to more than a tablespoon can leak.
SUI diagnosis consists of several methods:
- A bladder scan
- Urodynamic studies
There are many causes of SUI: childbirth, aging, nerve damage, or pelvic surgery. Chronic straining, coughing, smoking, and obesity are also SUI risk factors.
SUI occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are weakened or stretched. The pelvic muscles support the bladder and urethra; when these muscles are damaged or weakened, the bladder neck, where the urethra intersects with the bladder, descends during activity. This descent stops the urethra from controlling the flow of urine. Some cases are due to a weakened sphincter muscle.
To manage SUI, patients can strengthen their pelvic floor with Kegel exercises and other lifestyle changes:
- You may need pads or other absorbent products to manage the leakage.
- Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Eat high fiber foods to discourage constipation since it can make incontinence worse.
- Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce symptoms.
- You can also train your bladder by scheduling bathroom times, controlling the fluids you drink, and keeping a record of leakages.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, there are other options available. Women can use a device called a pessary to alleviate symptoms. It supports and strengthens the urethra.
Men with SUI who don’t respond to lifestyle changes might need to undergo surgery.
Overactive Bladder (OAB)
Overactive bladder (OAB) is not a disease but a collection of symptoms. The most pervasive sign is an overwhelming need to urinate. Some adults with OAB will experience leakage, while others only experience intense urgency. Another common symptom is having to go constantly.
OAB affects people both physically and psychologically. The sudden and urgent need to use the bathroom can make some patients reluctant to leave the toilet and often miss out on activities with friends and family.
It can also disrupt sleep due to many trips to the bathroom during the night. Because of these reasons, people with OAB can feel depressed and isolated.
Typically, OAB happens to men with prostate problems and women after menopause, but there are many causes for OAB. Some of them include:
- Neurologic disorders, like strokes or multiple sclerosis
- Hormonal changes
- Pelvic muscle weakness
- Medication side effects
- Nerve damage
SUI and OAB often occur together, and like SUI, many people suffer from OAB but don’t receive a diagnosis because they are too embarrassed to discuss it. They might think that there aren’t OAB treatments available; however, many treatments can help.
Treatment for OAB is more extensive than SUI. Usually, OAB treatment begins with lifestyle changes, also called behavior therapy. Some common tactics are:
- Eliminating or reducing food and drinks that irritate the bladder, like caffeine and alcohol.
- Keeping a bladder diary so you understand your habits.
- Intentionally delaying emptying their bladder for a few minutes to hours.
- Creating a bathroom schedule to only go at set times in the day.
Exercises can control the urgency, like Kegel exercises, quick flicks, and biofeedback. If lifestyle changes and exercises aren’t effective, medications and other treatments are available to help men and women with OAB.
Other OAB treatment options include:
- Medications, both oral and transdermal patches, are available to prevent your bladder from squeezing when it isn’t full.
- Botox is also a solution. A physician injects small amounts of Botox into the bladder to relax it.
- Nerve stimulation therapy can also help by reinvigorating the communication between the brain and nerves controlling your bladder.
- Rare treatments include surgical options, such as a bladder reconstruction or urinary diversion.
You shouldn’t feel isolated or lonely if you suffer from any form of incontinence; many devices and products can help you manage your symptoms and give you freedom:
- Catheters: A catheter is a tube inserted into your bladder that empties the contents into an external bag. There are two types of internal catheters: Foley or suprapubic. Men can also use an external type.
- Urine Drainage Bags: Catheters connect to urine drainage bags. They are available in overnight bags which hold up to two liters and leg bags that contain up to 800 milliliters.
- Absorbent Products: Pads and adult diapers are available in different designs. Pads and panty liners are available for women, while guards and drip collection pouches are available for men.
- Toilet Substitutes: For adults with limited mobility, there are toilet substitutes that they can use. Bedpans and portable urinals are also options, as well as raised toilet seats.
Hopefully, by understanding the different types of urinary incontinence, you can find products or treatments that help with your symptoms. You can buy underpads online and other incontinence products at Quick Supplies Online if you’d like to be discreet.
Even though it’s embarrassing, consult with your doctor—there are ways to treat urinary incontinence.