Oh, the joys of womanhood! For all the positive, powerful, and splendid aspects of being female, there are a few parts we’d all take a pass on if we could.
We’re talking about incontinence — that embarrassing leak of liquid that dampens your undies every time you laugh, cough, sneeze, or let’s face it — move. Although it’s pretty common among aging and menopausal women, incontinence isn’t inevitable, and more important, it’s treatable.
At Women’s Pelvic Surgery of North Jersey in Hackensack, we meet many women who aren’t aware incontinence is so common, and don’t know it’s not something they have to live with. Maybe you’re one of them. That’s why our board-certified OB/GYN, Dr. Khashayar Shakiba, and our team have put together this guide about the five main types of incontinence and what you can do about them.
1. Stress incontinence
If you leak urine when you exert yourself, you may have stress incontinence. As its name suggests, it occurs when you apply stress to your bladder. This can happen anytime you tighten or flex your abdominal muscles, such as when you cough or sneeze. It can also happen when you jog, run, squat, or lift something.
2. Urge incontinence
Do you ever get a sudden urge to run to the bathroom — or else? That’s called urge incontinence, and it hits you with an intense urge to go and the inability to keep it in. You may also find you need to find a bathroom often, but when you get there, not much comes out.
3. Overflow incontinence
In some cases, the bladder doesn’t fully empty when you use the restroom, so by the time it fills up again, it actually overfills and leaks. This is called overflow incontinence.
4. Mixed incontinence
If you experience the symptoms of stress incontinence, urge incontinence, and overflow incontinence, you have — you guessed it — mixed incontinence. You may have a combination of two types or all three.
5. Functional incontinence
If your hands are arthritic, and you leak a little urine as you fumble with your buttons and zippers, you have functional incontinence, a term that describes a physical or mental hindrance to using the restroom in a timely manner.
Causes of urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence stems from a variety of sources, and some of them are temporary conditions you can control, such as:
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
- Eating spicy or sugary foods
- Taking large doses of vitamin C
- Eating a lot of citrus fruits
- Eating too much chocolate or chili pepper
In some people, these foods and drinks overstimulate the bladder and increase the amount of urine you produce, which may lead to leakage.
If you’re constipated, the hard fecal matter may apply excess pressure on your nearby bladder and cause incontinence. Also, urinary tract infections can irritate your bladder and increase your urge to go. Once you clear up these causes, your incontinence should go away as well.
Causes of more persistent urinary incontinence include:
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause
- Weakened pelvic floor muscles caused by childbirth or aging
- Involuntary bladder contractions
- Obstructions, such as urinary stones
- Neurological disorders
- Being overweight or obese
Lifestyle changes can alleviate some of these culprits, but you may need medical assistance if your incontinence is caused by a physical condition.
In many cases, urinary incontinence can be easily resolved. Dr. Shakiba performs a thorough exam to assess the severity of your symptoms and your current health to determine the cause and the most appropriate treatment for your type of incontinence. This might include:
- Dietary changes
- Losing weight
- Prescription medication
- Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles
- Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation (for overactive bladder)
If your urinary incontinence doesn’t respond to these noninvasive, conservative treatments, you may be a candidate for a surgical procedure to implant a transobturator sling to keep your urethra closed and your urine from dribbling.
The point is, you don’t have to accept urinary incontinence. If you’re walking around with damp underwear, it can cause skin health issues, odor, embarrassment, and even reticence in your sex life. To put a stop to all that, schedule an appointment at Women’s Pelvic Surgery of North Jersey, either online or by calling us at 201-301-2772 today.