The number of women that struggle with some level of urinary incontinence may surprise you. Studies suggest that about 50 percent of women deal with urinary incontinence at different points in their life. It also affects about twice as many women as men.
If you feel like you’re the only one who can’t make it to the bathroom or has leakage when you sneeze, know that you’re not alone.
What is urinary incontinence, and are there different kinds?
Urinary incontinence is quite simply defined as “bladder leakage” or a loss of bladder control. There are a couple of different types of urinary incontinence: urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
Urge incontinence causes a severe need to urinate and an inability to hold it long enough to get to a bathroom. Stress incontinence happens when external pressure or stress causes a loss of bladder control — this would be things like sneezing, laughing or coughing.
A good majority of women deal with a combination of both types of urinary continence, which is referred to as “mixed incontinence.”
What factors contribute to urinary incontinence in women?
There’s a long list of possible factors that can contribute to urinary incontinence, but some of the most common are age, number of vaginal deliveries, obesity, menopause, diabetes and family history.
Numerous studies have been done on urinary incontinence in women and they tend to have some varying results. Overall, it’s considered to be a major health issue around the world.
In one Chinese study published by the National Library of Medicine, the biggest risk factors for developing urinary incontinence were multiple vaginal deliveries, age and menopause.
Another study showed that the risk of urinary incontinence in women is fairly low in younger women, it peaks at menopause, and then continues to increase in women age 60 or older. Still other studies have shown levels of education and marital status factor into the statistics.
In addition, things like repeat urinary tract infections, frequent or chronic constipation and bladder cancer can also cause urinary incontinence.
Should I seek help or treatment for my urinary incontinence?
There is a surprising number of women who either wait years to ask for help with their urinary incontinence or never talk to their doctor. It’s estimated that only about 40 percent of women bring up their incontinence issues with their doctor, even though the condition is treatable.
If you’re struggling with urinary incontinence, you can do several things at home to help improve your bladder control. Simple ways to help include doing Kegel exercises, drinking more water and less diuretics (i.e. coffee, tea, alcohol), setting a schedule for bathroom trips and losing excess weight.
There are also different treatment plans for women (or men) who have more severe urinary incontinence, so don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. The sooner you address the problem, the more successful the treatment will be. If there’s an underlying condition or issue that may be causing the urinary incontinence, that could be an even more serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately.