What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is loss of bladder control that is often seen in the elderly. It affects more than 25 million Americans. Urinary incontinence is not a part of the normal aging process. This can be a very embarrassing problem for seniors often leading to social isolation. The good news is that it can be treated. Please talk with your physician today.
What are the causes of urinary incontinence?
It can be caused by many different medical problems such as urinary tract infections, diabetes, enlarged prostate gland, weakened pelvic muscles after childbirth and certain medications. Neurological disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke may cause urinary incontinence, too.
What are the different types of urinary incontinence?
- Stress incontinence usually occurs when the pelvic muscles are weakened, for example by childbirth or surgery. It is common in women, causing urine to leak when a person coughs or laughs.
- Urge incontinence occurs when the need to urinate comes on very suddenly. It is most common in elderly and may be a sign of overactive bladder.
- Overflow incontinence is the uncontrollable leakage of small amounts of urine caused by an overfilled bladder. It is common in men and can be caused by something blocking the urinary flow such as an enlarged prostate gland.
- Functional incontinence occurs in persons who have normal urine control but trouble getting to the toilet in time. This may be seen in persons with severe arthritis or dementia.
- Mixed incontinence is a combination of the one or more types listed above.
How can urinary incontinence be treated?
Treatment depends of the type and cause of urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises, bladder training, medications and/or surgery are some of the options.
What are Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises, named after Dr Arnold Kegel, consist of contracting and relaxing the pelvic muscles. These exercises strengthen the muscles that control the bladder and are useful to women experiencing stress incontinence. To locate the right muscles, try stopping the urine flow without using the stomach, leg or buttock muscles. When you are able to slow or stop the stream of urine then you have located the right muscles. Hold the squeeze for 10 seconds and relax for 10 seconds. Perform 10 repetitions, three times a day. Results are usually seen in 3 to 6 months. The advantage of Kegel exercises are that they can be performed anywhere and anytime.
What is timed voiding and bladder training?
Seniors with urge incontinence can learn to lengthen the time between urges to go to the bathroom. It is advised to complete a bladder record/chart of the times a person urinates and the times of accidental leakage. It is important to observe patterns and then empty the bladder before an accident would likely occur. A person starts by urinating at set intervals such as every 1 to 2 hours, whether they feel the need to go or not. Seniors can retrain their bladder by gradually increasing the time between bathroom visits.
What medications are available for urinary incontinence?
Men with prostate enlargement can benefit from prescription medications to shrink the prostate and improve the flow of urine. Overactive bladder is often due to bladder muscle contractions that are too frequent and uncontrollable. There are several medications to treat overactive bladder. These medications block specific receptors in the bladder, which help the muscles of the bladder to relax.
When is surgery recommended?
Surgery is reserved if other treatments haven’t worked or if the incontinence is severe. It is helpful in stress incontinence in women and in overflow incontinence in men due to an enlarged prostate.