Female Urinary Incontinence: It's More Common Than You Think

Sep 15, 2022
Female Urinary Incontinence: It's More Common Than You Think
Urinary incontinence is a common problem for many women — so common, in fact, that many people consider it a “normal” part of aging. But it’s not. Here’s what you need to know about UI, including how we can treat it.

Nearly two-thirds of American women suffer from some degree of urinary incontinence (UI), and about a third of women have symptoms on a regular basis. In fact, while urinary incontinence can affect both women and men, it’s far more common among women — and it becomes more common with older age, too.

But even though it’s common, many women don’t seek treatment for their symptoms. One recent study found that of the women they surveyed, more than 60% hadn’t sought medical treatment for their urine leakage symptoms, even though for most women, incontinence is highly treatable.

At OB/GYN Associates of ConroeRichard Roberts, MD, helps women in Conroe, Texas, get help for their incontinence symptoms using a patient-centered approach that’s compassionate, understanding, and effective. If you have urinary incontinence, here’s what you should know about its causes and its treatments.

Three main types

You might think all there is to know about UI is that it causes urine leakage, but it’s a lot more complex than that. To begin with, UI can be divided into three main types.

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common type. This type happens when the muscles supporting and controlling your bladder weaken with age or from other factors, like obesity or childbirth. It also becomes a lot more common during menopause when estrogen levels decline.

It’s called stress incontinence because urine leakage happens when stress is placed on those muscles. If you dribble urine when you laugh, sneeze, cough, lift a heavy object, or engage in another strenuous or physical activity (including intercourse), then you probably have stress incontinence. 

Urge incontinence

Also called overactive bladder, urge incontinence happens when your bladder nerves are overactive, sending frequent signals to your brain that you need to urinate — even if your bladder isn’t full and even if you just urinated. 

Many people with overactive bladder feel those urges all day long — and all night, too. Sometimes, the nerve impulses cause the bladder to squeeze or contract, resulting in urine leakage. 

Urge incontinence can be caused by an infection, nerve damage, or some other underlying cause. In men, an enlarged prostate is a frequent cause of urge incontinence. Often, the cause can’t be determined.

Mixed incontinence

The third main type of urinary incontinence is mixed incontinence, and as the name implies, it includes symptoms of both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

There are other types of UI, too. For instance, functional incontinence happens when a disability or other issue, like arthritis, makes it difficult to reach a toilet in time. Overflow incontinence happens when your body produces more urine than your bladder can hold or when you can’t completely empty your bladder when you urinate.

It’s not “just a part of aging”

Although UI becomes more common with age, that doesn’t mean it’s a normal or natural part of aging. It’s a medical issue that can benefit from treatment. The key is to seek treatment as soon as you notice symptoms, so you can avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience that can occur when untreated symptoms get worse.

Treating any type of UI begins with a physical exam and an assessment of your bladder health and function. In addition to reviewing your symptoms, Dr. Roberts typically orders urinalysis and blood work, along with bladder testing and, sometimes, diagnostic imaging.

Once he completes your exam, Dr. Roberts prescribes treatment based on the type of incontinence you have, your symptom severity, and other factors. Possible treatment options include: 

  • Medication to prevent bladder spasms
  • Exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
  • Hormone therapy
  • Electrostimulation
  • Vaginal pessary device designed to support the bladder
  • Surgery to lift or repair the tissues supporting the bladder

Depending on the type of incontinence you have, you may benefit from more than one type of treatment.

Don’t let incontinence rule your life

Urinary incontinence can have a big impact on your life and your well-being, but the good news is that it can also be treated. To learn more, call 936-756-7788 or book an appointment online with Dr. Roberts and the team at OB/GYN Associates of Conroe today.