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What Causes Incontinence?

What Causes Incontinence?

If you always have to make sure you’re not too far from a bathroom, you might have urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence comes in several forms, but they all have something in common: feeling like you can’t control your bladder.

Although urinary incontinence is embarrassing, you don’t have to accept it. Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, in Boise, Idaho, explains more about the causes of and treatments for incontinence.

What causes incontinence?

Incontinence is a common problem that often affects older adults and women who have delivered babies.

Your urinary tract comprises several parts that all work together. Your kidneys filter the waste products from your blood, then moves the waste down two thin tubes called the ureters to your bladder, where it’s stored until you release it.

Sometimes, releasing the urine from your bladder isn’t always timed as conveniently as you would like. You may leak urine if you can’t get to a bathroom quickly.

Risk factors for incontinence

While anyone of any age can develop incontinence, certain groups are more likely to experience it than others:

The biggest reason why older people are more likely to experience incontinence is due to weak pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles are the same ones you use to bear down to push out urine or feces. 

Women who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth are much more likely to have damaged pelvic floor muscles.

The different types of incontinence

Although the various types of incontinence all include loss of bladder control, there are distinct differences.

Urge incontinence

Urge incontinence causes the feeling that you constantly have to use the bathroom. When you feel the signals that you need to urinate, you might not have much time to get to the bathroom because the urge is so strong. Caffeine worsens urge incontinence, so limit or avoid caffeine to make it easier to manage your symptoms.

Overflow incontinence

You may have overflow incontinence if you feel like you can’t ever empty your bladder completely and often feel like you still need to urinate (even if you just used the bathroom). 

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when physical activities put extra stress on your bladder. Some of these activities are common and unavoidable, such as the following:

These symptoms often result from weak pelvic floor muscles, which you can strengthen with Kegel exercises, and Dr. Weyhrich can explain how to do them.

If your incontinence is infrequent, it could be due to something simple and temporary, like constipation.

How we treat urinary incontinence

When you see Dr. Weyhrich about your incontinence, he asks questions about your symptoms, like how often you urinate and how much caffeine you drink.

Then, he performs a general physical examination and orders a urine sample for analysis to rule out any other possible causes, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI.) He may also order an ultrasound of your bladder.

If you have urge incontinence, you may also have an overactive bladder. There are medications to help reduce the need to urinate as frequently, such as Detrol® (tolterodine), Ditropan® (oxybutynin), or Vesicare® (solifenacin.)

If your incontinence is due to the effects of menopause, Dr. Weyhrich may prescribe hormone replacement therapy. The loss of estrogen causes an increased need to urinate, so restoring your estrogen may resolve the problem.

If you’re tired of always looking for the nearest bathroom, talk to Dr. Weyhrich. Contact our office or request an appointment online. 

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