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Urinary Incontinence - Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Urinary Incontinence is a highly common issue, affecting millions of people around the world. There are a number of different types of urinary incontinence

What are the different types of urinary incontinence?

There are several types of urinary incontinence, including:
  • Stress Incontinence - the bladder leaks when it is under pressure, for example when you exercise, cough or laugh.
  • Urge Incontinence - urine leaks while you feel a sudden urge to urinate, or soon afterwards.
  • Overflow Incontinence - when you're unable to fully empty your bladder. This causes frequent bladder leakage.
  • Total Incontinence - when your bladder cannot hold any urine at all. This will cause frequent leaking or constant urination.
  • You can also have a mixture of both stress and urge incontinence.

What can cause Urinary Incontinence?

Stress incontinence comes normally as a result of weakened muscles which are used to prevent urination: the pelvic floor muscles or the urethral sphincter.

Urge incontinence is normal caused by overactivity of the detrusor muscles, responsible for controlling the bladder.

An obstruction or blockage in the bladder can prevent it from emptying fully, causing overflow incontinence.

Total incontinence may be caused by a problem with the bladder from birth, a spinal injury, or a small, tunnel like hole that can form between the bladder and a nearby area (fistula).

Certain things can increase the chances of urinary incontinence, including:
  • Vaginal Birth and Pregnancy in general.
  • Obesity
  • Genetic history of incontinence.
  • Ageing - there is an increased risk but incontinence is not inevitable.
Find out more about Urinary Incontinence:
Symptoms and CausesTreatmentsPreventionUrinary Incontinence Specialists
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How can Urinary Incontinence be treated?

Your specilalist will often recommend non-surgical treatments before resorting to surgery for urinary incontinence. These may include:
  • Lifestyle changes: e.g. reducing caffeine or alcohol intake, or losing weight.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises
  • Bladder Training: Techniques to reduce the urge to urinate.
  • Incontinence products: i.e. incontinence pads or handheld urinals.
  • Medicine may also be recommended if your incontinence does not improve.

How do I perform pelvic floor exercises?

Your pelvic muscles can be strengthened with kegel exercises, helping to improve urinary incontinence. To perform these exercises, tighten your pelvic muscles as if you are trying to hold back urine. Hold the muscles tight for a few seconds and then release. Repeat this 10 times. You can do this up to four times a day and these exercises can be done anywhere. For more information please click here.

Surgical Treatments:

Surgery may be considered if your incontinence is more severe, options include:

How can Urinary Incontinence be prevented?

Urinary Incontinence cannot always be prevented, but these factors may reduce the risk of it occuring:
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid or reduce alcohol intake
  • Stay active, and ensure your pelvic floor muscles are strong

Urinary Incontinence - Specialists

Dr Pallavi Latthe

Dr Pallavi Latthe

Consultant Gynaecologist and subspecialist Urogynaecologist

Dr Pallavi is an accredited subspecialist in urogynaecology and a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust.

She is the clinical lead for Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecology in the Trust.

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