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Urinary Incontinence-Types, Causes and Prevention

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 16 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Urinary Incontinence; Urine; Bladder;

Urinary incontinence is a very common occurrence in women and may be temporary or have longer term effects. It can be caused by a number of different problems, some serious others not so much and can be more of a hindrance and embarrassment than a real problem for most women.

It can however, also be the sign of an underlying problem that should be diagnosed and treated.

Types Of Urinary Incontinence

Stress Incontinence – This type of incontinence occurs usually as a result of coughing, sneezing or lifting heavy objects. It happens as the pressure in the abdomen forces down to the bladder and pelvic floor causing leaking of urine.

Urge Incontinence – This is when the need to pass urine comes on very quickly and often is a result of infections or nerve damage.

Overflow Incontinence – When the bladder becomes too full and the organ cannot hold anymore fluids, the urine is forced out as overflow. It can also be a sign of certain neurological disorders.

Causes Of Incontinence

There are many causes of urinary incontinence some serious others that are temporary or can be treated easily, often by doing some exercises. These are just a selection of the many reasons why urinary incontinence may occur.

Pregnancy – As the uterus enlarges and your baby gains weight a lot of pressure can be put on your pelvic floor muscles and your bladder and urethra may not be so well supported; hormonal changes have also been found to alter the strength of the muscles.

Childbirth - This can damage the nerve supply to the bladder and urethra which can result in long term damage that may not be apparent immediately and may present later on.

Bladder stones or tumours – occasionally urinary incontinence can be a symptoms of serious conditions such as stones or tumours though the urine is likely to contain blood and may be cloudy. There is often a lot of pain associated with bladder stones especially in they get trapped in the fine tubes leading to and from the bladder.

Aging – A very common occurrence in the older generations, the bladder becomes less able to hold large volumes of fluid and will want to empty more frequently. It is especially common in women as oestrogen levels fall, which is important for maintaining healthy bladder tissues causing the tissues and muscles to close less effectively.

Urinary tract infection – Another very common cause the bladder and urethra can become irritated by the presence of infection and want to void more frequently. It is also common to have odorous urine, sometimes with the presence of blood or cloudiness and some pain when passing water.

Drinking too much – Very common with alcohol induced incontinence the bladder will only be able to hold a certain level of fluid and if not voided often enough will become stressed by the extra fluids and make leak out. With alcohol, which is also a diuretic, the bladder may become too full and the person unable to wake to go to the bathroom.

Caffeine – Caffeine is a diuretic and will cause the bladder to feel full more quickly and will be less able to hold these fluids and may leak if not voluntarily emptied.

Preventing Urinary Incontinence

The best way to avoid any incontinence is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are located in the bottom of your pelvis and support the pelvic organs. By strengthening them they will provide a stronger network of support to the bladder and urethra and help stop leaking form occurring.

The pelvic floor muscles can be found by trying to stop urine mid-flow. This technique should only be used once or twice to find the correct muscles as it can cause more problems by repeating the technique. Alternatively the muscles can be found by placing a finger in the vagina and trying to squeeze it using the vaginal muscles.

When the muscles have been found, try exercising them daily using a squeeze and hold technique followed by short sharp bursts of squeezing. Repeat several times a daily every day for maximum results.

Losing weight is another good method of preventing incontinence. If you are carrying lots of weight around you pelvic muscles will be under a lot of strain and will not be able to support the bladder effectively.

Urinary incontinence is a very common disorder but should be investigated for underlying reasons that may be treatable. Many women will find they are less likely to suffer from incontinence or will be able to improve their symptoms by strengthening their pelvic floor muscles.

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