What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence (UI) is the involuntary leakage of urine. It affects 25 million adult Americans and an astounding 26% of females between the ages of 18 and 59. So, why don’t we hear about it more often? Perhaps it is because we have been told that it is a “normal” process of aging? Or maybe the topic is just too embarrassing to bring up? Whatever the case, know that you are not alone! Just because it is “common” does not mean that it should be considered a “normal” part of life.

What are signs and symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?

The primary symptom of UI is the inability to hold urine despite efforts made to prevent leakage. When and how this occurs depends on which type of incontinence you may have. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is the most common type (49% of UI) and is characterized by leakage with coughing, laughing, sneezing, or physical exertion. Another common type is urge urinary incontinence (UUI). Urge urinary incontinence is caused by the bladder being unstable or overactive. Most people with UUI are able to identify certain triggers that elicit the involuntary loss of urine, such as running water or turning the key in the front door. Less common types of incontinence include overflow incontinence, functional incontinence, postural incontinence, coital incontinence, and continuous incontinence.

How can I help prevent Urinary Incontinence?

Understanding the basics of proper bladder hygiene is an important step in preventing the occurrence of urinary incontinence. A healthy adult bladder is the size and shape of a pear. It takes approximately three hours for it to fill and can store up to 16 ounces of urine comfortably (about 20 oz total). As we all have experienced, the bladder can talk to us via “urges.” These urges are signals sent from the bladder to the brain and are intended to help prevent the occurrence of urine overflow. Studies have shown that the first urge is usually felt when the bladder is 30% full. In the healthy individual, this urge can be successfully ignored and voiding delayed by minutes or even hours. However, if we habitually respond to the first urge, our bladder accommodates and tells us to empty prematurely.

Other habits that may negatively impact bladder function are “just in case peeing,” hovering vs. sitting on the toilet seat, and inadequate fluid intake. The general recommendation is to drink at least 50% of your body weight in fluid ounces per day, with the primary source being water. Modifying your diet to eliminate bladder irritants is also important. Common bladder irritants include caffeine, carbonated beverages, citrus fruit, and spicy foods.

Need more help with Urinary Incontinence?

If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, it is time to take control. Make an appointment with your physician to inquire about possible treatment options for you. And don’t forget to inquire about physical therapy. Our Women’s Health therapists can help you identify the type of urinary incontinence you may be experiencing and provide treatment to help re-train your bladder and strengthen your pelvic floor so you don’t have to live with leakage anymore.