Written by: dr. Alexandra Francesca Chandra, MRes
Urinary incontinence is a medical condition in which you cannot control the flow of your urine. For instance, the urine comes out when you cough or sneeze. Many people think that urinary incontinence is normal with age. However, urinary incontinence is a medical problem that can be managed and treated.1-3
If left untreated, urinary incontinence can affect emotional, psychological, and social life. Many people with urinary incontinence become uncomfortable in their daily activities as they must frequently go to the toilet.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
There are several types of urinary incontinence:2
- Stress incontinence: leakage of urine when there is pressure on the bladder, such as when coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting something heavy
- Urge incontinence: leakage of urine due to a sudden urge to urinate. This makes a person feel the need to frequently urinate, including at night.
- Overflow incontinence: leakage of urine due to incomplete urination
- Functional incontinence: leakage of urine due to physical disturbances that prevent you from going to the toilet on time, for example having arthritis that you cannot unbutton the pants fast enough.
- Mixed incontinence: a combination of more than one type of urinary incontinence. The most common combination is stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
There are several things that increase the risk of urinary incontinence:2,3
- Gender â€“ women are more frequent, this is related to pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Although men with prostate problems are also at risk.
- Age â€“ the elderly are more prone to urinary incontinence as the aging of bladder muscle can cause a reduction in its capacity and involuntary muscle contractions
- Family history â€“ risk increases if a family member has urinary incontinence
- Bodyweight â€“ being overweight will increase pressure on the bladder and surrounding muscles, causing urine to come out when coughing/sneezing
- Pregnancy â€“ hormonal changes and increasing gestational age increase the risk to urinary incontinence
- Childbirth â€“ vaginal delivery and having a greater number of children increase the risk to urinary incontinence
- Prostate enlargement/cancer â€“ urinary incontinence may occur due to the enlargement of the prostate itself or as a side effect of prostate cancer therapy
- Obstruction â€“ obstruction of the urinary tract either by tumour or stone
- Smoking â€“ smoking behaviour can increase the risk of urinary incontinence
- Other diseases â€“ increased risk in people with diabetes or neurological disorders
Causes of Urinary Incontinence
Causes of temporary urinary incontinence:3
- Drinks: Alcohol, caffeine, soda, sparkling
- Foods: chocolate, chilli, foods high in sugar/acid, citrus fruits
- Artificial sweeteners
- High doses of Vitamin C
- Medications: some high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, and sedatives
- Medical problems: urinary tract infection, constipation
Causes of persistent urinary incontinence:3
- Aging and menopause
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Prostate enlargement/cancer
- Urinary tract obstruction, either by tumour or stone
- Nerve disorders (multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, stroke, brain tumour, or spinal cord injury)
Prevention of Urinary Incontinence
Here are some ways to prevent urinary incontinence:3
- Maintain a healthy weight (no excess, no less)
- Pelvic muscle exercises
- Avoid alcoholic beverages, caffeine, and high sugar/acidic foods
- Quit smoking
- Eat more fibrous foods
Management of Urinary Incontinence
- Catheters and urine bags â€“ use a catheter tube that connects the bladder to the urine bag so that the patient can be free to do their daily activities and not be bothered by urinary incontinence2
- HIFEM (High-Intensity Focused Electro-Magnetic) Device â€“ a new therapy using channelled electromagnetic technology to stimulate neuromuscular tissue and strengthen pelvic floor muscles in a non-invasive manner. This new modality is proven to be safe and effective to treat urinary incontinence.1
- Samuels JB, Pezzella A, Berenholz J, Alinsod R. Safety and Efficacy of a Non-Invasive High-Intensity Focused Electromagnetic Field (HIFEM) Device for Treatment of Urinary Incontinence and Enhancement of Quality of Life. Lasers Surg Med. 2019;51(9):760-766.
- Urology Care Foundation. Urinary Incontinence. [Internet] Cited on 20 Jan 2022. Available from: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/u/urinary-incontinence.
- Mayo Clinic. Urinary Incontinence. [Internet] Cited on 20 Jan 2022. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/symptoms-causes/syc-20352808.