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Urinary incontinence refers to the loss of bladder control; it can range from occasional urine leakage to complete inability to hold urine. Urinary incontinence affects more women than men. More than 13 million women in the United States suffer from urinary incontinence at some point in their lives.

Types of urinary incontinence

The three main types of urinary incontinence are:

  • Stress incontinence: sudden loss of urine during certain activities or motions
  • Urge incontinence: a sudden need to urinate followed by involuntary loss of urine
  • Overflow incontinence: occurs when the bladder does not empty completely, causing dribbling.

Some women may also experience symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence, a condition known as mixed incontinence.

Stress incontinence

The most common type of urinary incontinence in women is stress incontinence, which is the unintentional release of urine during certain activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, or lifting heavy items. Stress incontinence affects women of all ages and is very treatable.

Stress incontinence occurs when your urethra, the tube that releases urine from the bladder, is unable to remain closed. Any movement that puts pressure on the bladder can cause the urethra to lose its seal, allowing urine to escape.

Urinary incontinence causes

Urinary incontinence is often thought to be a natural part of the aging process, but in reality, it affects women of all ages. Many factors can contribute to a weakening of the muscle and connective tissue of the vagina, including:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Chronic heavy lifting or straining.

Urinary incontinence symptoms

Women often live with urinary incontinence for long periods of time, feeling frustrated by the way it complicates their lives and limits their activities. Talk to your doctor about urinary incontinence treatment if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Unplanned urine loss while laughing, coughing, sneezing, getting up from a seated or lying position, or exercising
  • The need to wear pads to absorb urine leakage
  • Limiting or avoiding your activities to prevent urine leakage
  • Planning trips or activities around the availability of restroom facilities.

Urinary incontinence can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and a pelvic exam. Your doctor may also want to perform special tests to evaluate the function of your bladder and urethra.

Urinary incontinence treatment

Traditional means of treating urinary incontinence include behavioral/muscle therapy and electrical stimulation, both of which aid in isolating and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Currently, there are no medications to treat stress incontinence in the United States.

Our office also offers ThermiVa®, a noninvasive, pain free, office procedure with proven results in treating stress incontinence.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact the Center for Women’s Health at 913-491-6878.