Have you ever experienced releasing a tiny amount of pee after sneezing or coughing? Even though you did not wet your pants entirely, knowing that a bit of urine leaked beyond your control is disturbing, not to mention embarrassing. This problem is called Urinary Incontinence. Dr Ng Kai Lyn, a doctor that is an expert about this, gives us the low-down about this odd condition.
Fact #1: Urinary incontinence is a common problem.
Urinary incontinence happens when a person loses bladder control. The instances in which this problem occurs may vary from person to person. Some may have bladder control issues occasionally, like passing urine after a big sneeze or an abrupt cough. In severe cases, some people may experience a sudden impulse to urinate that they are unable to reach the toilet in time to do so.
Fact #2: Urinary incontinence can happen to anyone at any age.
Urinary incontinence is a lot more common in older adults as their ability to control their bladder and urethra’s muscle strength begins to weaken as they age. However, this problem does not only happen in older people. This can affect anyone at any age, especially when an individual is at high risk of developing this condition.
Fact #3: There are 5 types of urinary incontinence.
As mentioned earlier, people’s experience of urinary incontinence may differ. Some may experience minor urine leaks rarely, while others may go through this bothering condition often and discharge moderate amounts of urine.
The following are the 5 types of urinary incontinence:
- Functional incontinence
- Mixed Incontinence
- Overflow Incontinence
- Stress Incontinence
- Urge Incontinence
Functional incontinence affects those with a physical or mental disability that hinders them from accessing the toilet in time.
Mixed incontinence happens when a person experiences two or more types of urinary incontinence. Usually, urge and stress incontinence is experienced by an individual at the same time.
Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder does not empty all throughout after urinating, which results in frequent trickling of urine.
Stress incontinence is a problem that commonly takes place when pressure is exerted on the bladder. Oftentimes this is caused by sudden coughing, sneezing, or laughing, as well as heavy lifting or exercising. In women, stress incontinence can be caused by childbirth, pregnancy, or menopause. Obesity is also another factor that can result in this condition.
Urge incontinence is that unexpected feeling of wanting to urinate badly. Urine is then released by the bladder involuntarily. Urge incontinence is usually linked to cystitis, which is an infection that causes the lining of the bladder to become inflamed. Another identified cause of urge incontinence is the existence of a neurological condition, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. Among men, this condition can occur due to an enlarged prostate.
Fact #4: Women are more at risk of developing urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is more likely to develop in women than men. This is due to the factors that contribute to stress incontinence, such as pregnancy and menopause. Women who experience this condition while pregnant will most likely have the same problem after giving birth.
Fact #5: Certain foods, drinks, and medication can be a factor in developing urinary incontinence.
Foods, drinks, and medications that are considered as diuretics can raise the amount of urine that the body needs to release, therefore filling-up the bladder in just a little time and prompts the need to urinate quickly. This condition is called “temporary urinary incontinence.” Avoid the consumption of the following in order to prevent yourself from a disaster that is waiting to happen:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Caffeinated and carbonated drinks
- Chilli peppers
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods
- Medications for heart and blood pressure
- Muscle relaxants
- Vitamin C in large doses
Talk to your doctor about how to manage urinary incontinence in case taking diuretic medications cannot be avoided.
Fact #6: Urinary incontinence can be diagnosed using various medical tests.
To diagnose urinary incontinence, a patient will undergo a physical exam, which includes checking the vagina and the pelvic floor muscles’ strength in women and examining the rectum to see if there is enlargement in the prostate gland in men. Doctors may also recommend further tests like:
- Blood test
- Pelvic ultrasound
- Postvoid residual (PVR) measurement
- Urodynamic testing
Fact #7: Urinary incontinence can be treated using different methods.
Treatment methods for urinary incontinence range from pelvic floor exercises to bladder training to medications and, in severe cases, surgery.
A Kegel exercise is a type of pelvic floor exercise that helps in keeping the pelvic floor muscles as well as the urinary sphincter to be strong. A person develops better bladder control when these muscles are strengthened.
Bladder training is done so that a person is able to control their bladder from releasing urine at the wrong time. An example of bladder training is creating schedules to visit the bathroom to urinate.
Medications used to manage urinary incontinence include anticholinergics and Imipramine (Tofranil). These medications must be prescribed by a doctor and taken simultaneously when doing other treatment methods.
Surgery is the last resort when all other treatment methods are not able to address urinary incontinence effectively. Surgical procedures for this condition can be done in three ways:
- Colposuspension procedure
- Insertion of artificial sphincter
- Sling procedure
Fact #8: Urinary incontinence can be prevented, but not always.
Involuntary releasing of urine may not be prevented at all times, but there are ways to lessen this event from happening:
- Do pelvic floor exercises regularly
- Keep a healthy diet – eat foods that are rich in fibre to avoid constipation, which can cause urinary incontinence.
- Skip food and drinks that can stimulate your body to produce more urine, such as coffee, alcohol, and foods that are high in acid
- Watch your weight – obesity is one cause of urinary incontinence, so keep your body at a healthy weight
Dr Ng Kai Lyn – Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Mount Elizabeth Novena: 38 Irrawady Road 05-34/35
Hougang: 684 Hougang Ave 8 01-198
+65 60 1115 31