A symptom and not a disease, urinary incontinence—the inability to control the release of urine from your bladder—is often a result of weakness or nerve damage of the muscles of the pelvic floor and can severely affect a person's quality of life.
While it affects men and women of all ages and levels of health, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female anatomy are a few reasons why women experience urinary incontinence more often than men do.
The most common types are:
- Stress Incontinence: Laughing, lifting, coughing, sneezing, or any activity that suddenly increases abdominal pressure, making it difficult to hold back urine. This is common after pregnancy, pelvic surgery, and during menopause.
- Urge Incontinence: A sudden uncontrollable urge to urinate often associated with urinary tract infections, certain medications, stress, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and neurological diseases.
- Bowel Dysfunctions: Constipation due to pelvic floor muscle spasms and fecal incontinence after childbirth or anorectal surgery.
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Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital offers a full range of services for diagnosing incontinence, including:
- Urodynamic testing assesses how well your bladder and muscles store and release urine.
- Anorectal manometry measures the pressure and electrical activity of the anal sphincter and the rectum
- Pudendal nerve testing measures the delay between an electrical impulse and the muscle contraction
Treatment for Urinary Incontinence
Once a diagnosis has been made, there are a variety of treatments available, including behavior modification, medication and non-surgical therapies, including:
- Physical therapy, including pelvic floor muscle exercises
- Functional electrical stimulation, which stimulates the muscles of the pelvic floor
- Biofeedback training, which uses a monitoring device to feedback on the effectiveness of the pelvic floor muscle contraction
Most patients can experience improvement without surgery, but it may be necessary for more extreme cases. Advances in technology have resulted in successful outpatient surgical treatments that require minimal incisions and result in less pain and quicker recoveries.