Women who are suffering from urinary incontinence may find themselves in a quandary over the prospect of changing lifestyle and behavioural patterns in order to cope with the changes in their bodies. This is not a comfortable issue to deal with, as often the negative emotions cause unpleasant reactions. Therefore, it is very important to understand what urinary incontinence in women means and how it affects their daily lives.
What causes urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is a symptom of an underlying medical condition manifested by loss of control over the bladder functions. This type of incontinence is common in women who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles cradling the bladder and the uterus may weaken due to the prolonged stress of carrying the baby’s weight.
Physical trauma to the pelvic tissues during assisted deliveries can cause scarring and loss of elasticity that may worsen over time if not treated. The passages of small amounts of urine that escape when coughing, sneezing or lifting indicate stress incontinence. High impact activities such as weightlifting or competitive sports further aggravate the weakness of the pelvic muscles.
Women over forty may experience intermittent urinary incontinence due to the diminished oestrogen hormone levels. This condition is part of the menopausal syndrome in older women and is treatable with hormone replacement. The symptoms may come and go over the years but may worsen as the person reaches fifty to sixty years old.
Urinary tract infections and the presence of tumours or cancer growth in the bladder or uterus may also cause incontinence. Kidney stones and surgical scarring can block the urinary tubes and disrupt the normal flow of urine causing secondary infections that are more serious. Some unhealthy toilet habits such as putting off urination for long periods and habitual incomplete voiding contribute to the problem.
What are the treatments for urinary incontinence?
Almost all types of urinary incontinence are treatable if diagnosed early. A complete medical diagnostic test and laboratory analysis can help the physician in recommending the right treatment. A capable physical therapist can help in locating the right muscles to contract whilst performing the Kegel exercise routine. This set of exercises aims to strengthen the weak pelvic muscles and improve muscle tone.
For an overactive bladder that cause urge incontinence, anti-cholinergic drugs like oxybutynin and solifenacin help in relaxing the detrusor muscles. An anti-depressant like Imipramine calms the erratic contractions of the bladder. It is important to inform the attending physician if the patient is under medication for another kind of ailment because some medicaments may have adverse effects if taken in combination with other drugs.
Use of vaginal inserts like the pessaries may temporarily alleviate the pressure of the enlarged uterus on the bladder. A professional health care provider inserts a doughnut-shaped device into the vaginal cavity that will provide support for the prolapsed uterus. Tampons are inserts made of absorbent material designed to absorb small leakage. This is a convenient device for women who are into sports, replacing the incontinence pads. Vaginal inserts are not advisable for women who are prone to cystitis and cervical infections.
Bulking materials are agents injected into the tissues surrounding the urethra to improve closure of the sphincter and prevent accidental leakage. This non-invasive intervention is a temporary measure that requires repeat injections after a certain period. Success rate of this kind of therapy is high and side effects are minimal.
If the other treatments fail, surgery is another option that may work. Semi-invasive procedures such as the sling and bladder neck suspension are minor surgical interventions that do not require long recuperation period. The surgeon inserts a thin mesh tape around the bladder neck and the urethra to improve closure and provide relief from the pressure of the prolapsed uterus. The tape can be either a synthetic material or the patient’s own body tissue.
Radical surgeries such as bladder augmentation and bladder replacement are the last resort when all else fail. Management of the leakage using incontinence products helps the patient in living comfortably despite the incontinence. The instances of urinary incontinence in women may greatly reduce with balanced diet, exercise, good toilet habits and healthy lifestyle.