Hampton Roads Urology
Content Provide by MayoClinic.com

Urinary Incontinence

Female Urinary Incontinence: Think of it as a medical condition, not an embarrassment.  And know that it’s treatable.

The first thing you want to keep in mind when it comes to urinary incontinence is that it’s fairly common.  The medical community estimates that up to 15 million adults—with somewhere between 70% to 85% of them being women—experience some form of urinary incontinence and the number may be considerably higher since the condition is often unreported. If you’re a woman over the age of 50, there’s a one in four chance that you have involuntary urination.

Kayaking

The other, even more important thing to remember is that most urinary incontinence is treatable. In fact, it can be treatable in up to 90% of the people who experience it. And that doesn’t mean just dealing with the results by using absorbent pads and adult diapers. It means a wide range of procedures that include behavioral techniques, medical devices, physical therapy, medications, surgery and other interventions that can help you return to a higher quality of life. 

Toward this goal, Riverside Urology Specialists, a practice made up of some of the region’s top urologists including the only female urologist on the Peninsula, have been effectively treating urinary incontinence in women for over three decades.

What is urinary incontinence and what forms does it take?
Urinary incontinence can be described as any involuntary leakage of urine from your body –whether it’s a small leak or a more substantial gush. In the vast majority of cases, the urinary incontinence results from some underlying and treatable medical condition. The types of urinary incontinence include:

Stress   Leakage of small amounts of urine during physical movement that includes coughing, sneezing, exercising, lifting and even sexual activity.
Urge   Leakage of large amounts of urine at unexpected times, including during sleep.
Overactive Bladder   Urinary frequency and urgency, with or without urge incontinence.
Functional   Untimely urination because of physical disability, external obstacles, or problems in thinking or communicating (including language problems) that prevents a person from getting to a toilet in time.
Overflow   Unexpected leakage of small amounts of urine because of a full bladder.
Mixed   Usually the occurrence of stress and urge incontinence together.
Transient   Urine leakage that occurs temporarily because of a situation that will pass (infection, taking a new medication, colds accompanied by intense coughing

The higher prevalence of urinary incontinence among women is often related to pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and the structure of the female urinary tract.  Beyond these female-specific factors, women may also become incontinent from neurologic injury, birth defects, stroke, multiple sclerosis and the use of over the counter or prescription drugs intended for an unrelated condition.

In addition, urinary incontinence can be related to some physical problems associated with—but not an inevitable part of—aging.  As a result, older women experience urinary incontinence more often than younger women.

Your doctor can help you find a solution to a situation that can range from mildly annoying to debilitating.  No single treatment works for everyone, but many women can find a significant improvement through one of the surgical or non-surgical strategies mentioned above.

Why is it important that you treat incontinence now?
Most people, and you may very likely be among them, are not going to feel comfortable discussing urinary incontinence.  But because it’s a medical condition that affects your quality of life, seeking medical advice is important for a number of reasons:

  • While urinary incontinence itself is not a disease, it may indicate a more serious underlying condition, particularly if there is blood in the urine.
  • In older adults especially, it can increase the risk of falls and injuries caused by rushing to the bathroom.
  • It can cause many adults to restrict their activities and limit social interactions in order to avoid embarrassment.

What’s the next step?
For a general overview of urinary incontinence, visit the MayoClinic.com Health Library.  For a personalized evaluation talk with your family doctor or call Riverside Urology Specialists at (757) 873-1374 (Newport News) or (757) 253-0051 (Williamsburg). The Physicians of Riverside Urology Specialists offer patient-centered care for a full spectrum of urological conditions including urinary incontinence in men and women.

Treatment will depend on your diagnosis and what kind of approach best fits your individual lifestyle.  In all cases, make a decision not to go with the flow.  Take action and get the help you need to get back to the life you want.