While many people may experience urinary incontinence as they get older, it is not “just a normal part of aging,” and there are many things you can do to manage it and prevent it from interfering with your lifestyle.
The Urology Care Foundation notes there are four types of urinary incontinence, which follow.
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)
This is the most common type of incontinence, resulting from stretching of the pelvic floor muscles and extra pressure placed upon the bladder. The pelvic floor may be weakened during childbirth, for example, and the condition may persist afterwards. Stress incontinence is most common in older women and less common in men. It can cause urine to leak from the bladder when there is added pressure, such as coughing, sneezing or laughing, or during physical activities, such as walking, bending and lifting. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor can be used to manage this condition. In severe cases, surgery may be considered.
Overactive Bladder (OAB)
This condition is known as “urgency” incontinence because it makes the person feel an urgent need to urinate — often during the night — even when the bladder is not full. It affects more than 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women. It is often associated with prostate problems in men and with menopause in women. An estimated 33 million Americans live with OAB, but it’s hard to know an exact figure since many people are too embarrassed to report it.
In addition to Kegel exercises, there are a wide variety of treatments for OAB. Your healthcare provider may suggest losing weight if you are overweight, reducing fluids or not drinking at certain times, double voiding (that is, trying to urinate a second time immediately after emptying the bladder), scheduling trips to the bathroom instead of waiting until you feel the urge to go, using a catheter periodically, wearing absorbent pads, bladder training or taking medication.
A Combination of SUI and OAB
Some people experience both an urgent need to urinate and some leakage during physical activity.
This happens when the body makes more urine than the bladder can hold when the bladder cannot empty once it is full, due to blockage or the inability of bladder muscles to contract. This results in a constant “dribbling” from the bladder. It is most common in men who have prostate problems or who have had prostate surgery. It is rare in women. It can also be caused by nerve or muscle damage resulting from Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or spina bifida.
Treatment for this type of incontinence will require consultation with your provider and may involve both catheterization and surgery.