The experience of uncontrollably leaking urine can be an embarrassing situation for most people.

When you have involuntary urine leakage, you are sure to have a lot of questions and may not know where to start. 

Read on to get an idea of what can be causing your involuntary urine leakage and how you can manage it. 

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urine leakage or Urinary incontinence is a common condition that happens because of problems with the muscles and nerves that help your bladder (an organ that holds your urine after it is filtered out from your kidneys) to hold or release urine. 

Because of this, you may leak urine when you cough or sneeze, or you may have a sudden urge to urinate but cannot get to the bathroom in time.

The kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra make up your urinary system. They are responsible for filtering, storing, and removing waste from your body. 

When this system is working properly, you usually have enough time to get to a restroom before you need to urinate, and there is no urine leakage. When these parts do not work properly, urinary incontinence can occur.

What Are The Types of Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence can be of the following types:

  • Stress incontinence: This condition causes you to leak urine when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift heavy objects, exercise, or do other things that put pressure on your bladder.

  • Urge incontinence: This condition is also known as an overactive bladder (OAB). It happens when you leak urine after feeling a sudden, strong urge to go. You may have OAB if you:

    • Have to pee eight or more times a day and more than once at night. 

    • May feel the urge to pee when you touch or hear running water.

  • Mixed incontinence: This condition occurs when you have stress and urge incontinence at the same time. It is more commonly seen in women.

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

Following are some causes that may be responsible for your urinary incontinence:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth: If you have given birth recently, it is more likely that you might develop urinary incontinence. The strain from carrying a baby and giving birth can weaken the muscles, ligaments, and nerves in your pelvic area, bringing on incontinence.

  • Menopause: Menopause is a point in a woman’s life that marks the end of her menstrual cycle. During menopause, your estrogen (a hormone that maintains reproductive health in women) levels drop. Estrogen helps keep your bladder, pelvic muscles, and urethra (a tube that allows urine to pass out of your body) healthy. Stress incontinence and overactive bladder are commonly seen due to reduced levels of estrogen.

  • Smoking: Smokers are at a higher risk for incontinence than nonsmokers. Smoking can irritate your bladder and worsen your symptoms. It can also weaken your pelvic floor muscles (due to long-term coughing), leading to stress incontinence and an overactive bladder.

  • Obesity: Being overweight is harmful to your overall health. It increases your risk of developing medical conditions including urinary incontinence. Excess weight can put pressure on your bladder and weaken your pelvic muscles, causing it to leak urine.

  • Urinary tract infections (UTI): An infection in your urinary tract (urethra, ureters, bladder, and kidneys) can irritate your bladder, causing pain and increasing your urge to pee more often. If not treated, it could lead to urinary incontinence or infect your kidneys. Once treated, the urge to urinate frequently usually goes away.

  • Enlarged prostate: The prostate is a small gland in men, located below the bladder. An enlarged prostate presses against the bladder and pinches the urethra. As the prostate enlarges, it weakens the bladder and eventually leads to the involuntary loss of urine. 

  • Age: Old age is a risk factor for urinary incontinence as it is more commonly seen in older adults as compared to younger people. Ageing is associated with changes in your lower urinary tract. As you age, your bladder capacity and contractility reduce, resulting in a reduced ability to store urine. This leads to incontinence.

  • Swelling of your bladder: Any painful swelling within your bladder can also cause urinary incontinence. As your bladder swells due to infection, it fails to store urine, resulting in leakage. This condition is treatable and the incontinence usually goes away once the swelling goes down.

  • Constipation: It is a digestive issue when your bowel movements reduce, making it difficult to pass stool. It is stored in the rectum which is located near your bladder and shares many of the same nerves. Hard, impacted stool in your rectum causes these nerves to be overactive and increase urinary frequency.

  • Medical conditions: There are many medical conditions that can damage the nerves or muscles of your bladder, resulting in urinary incontinence. These medical conditions can be diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease (a brain disorder that causes tremors). Anxiety can also sometimes trigger urinary incontinence.

How is Urinary Incontinence Treated?

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your symptoms and any conditions that might be causing the problem. 

Some of the options could be:·

  • Bladder training: A type of behavioural therapy that helps you to learn how to control your urge to urinate. By using the restroom at set times instead of waiting for the urge, you can slowly get control over your bladder and increase the time between bathroom trips.

  • Kegel exercises: Kegel exercises or pelvic floor exercises are done to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. The part of your body including your hip bones is the pelvic area. Squeezing your pelvic floor muscles, which hold up your bladder, can make them stronger and help stop leaks.

  • Medications: Leakage can be reduced with a variety of medications. Some of these medications help to reduce the muscle contractions that cause overactive bladder symptoms. Other drugs work in the other direction, relaxing muscles and allowing your bladder to totally empty. 

  • Non-surgical vaginal laser: It is a non-invasive procedure performed in women. It is painless, completely safe, and provides highly effective results. This procedure uses a laser (high energy source) to tighten your pelvic muscles. It is conducted in an outpatient setting and does not require anaesthesia or downtime, ensuring that you can resume your routine soon.

  • Surgery: If other treatment options have failed to treat your incontinence, your doctor can suggest several surgical procedures to relieve your condition. These procedures could range from simple injections to more sophisticated surgeries. A common type of surgery called the sling procedure uses a small ribbon of mesh to support your bladder.

Urinary incontinence can be caused by various experiences in your life. 

Consult your doctor about the best strategies to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong throughout your life.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.