8 causes of urinary leaks
Ever have a little “oops” leak down there? That’s how it usually starts. We’re talking about urinary incontinence (UI).
Some people with this medical condition may have frequent or sudden urges to urinate. For other people, the disorder results in an inability to control the bladder. This can lead to leaks.
What causes urinary incontinence?
There are many causes of UI, including:
- Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and the structure of the female urinary tract (these are also reasons the condition is more common in women)
- Diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, which can damage the nerves that control your bladder
- Urinary tract diseases, infections, strokes, surgeries and treatments for pelvic cancers
- Tumors or obstructions
- Poor kidney function
- Certain medications
- Certain foods or beverages
- High fluid intake
Types of urinary incontinence
There are several types of UI. Each has a unique set of symptoms.
- Stress incontinence: Common in women, especially those who have given birth vaginally. Triggered by coughing, sneezing, laughing, bending or lifting. These triggers can cause urine leakage.
- Urge incontinence: Common in older men and women. Characterized by increased urinary urgency (overactive bladder), an uncontrollable flow of urine and increased urinary frequency.
- Overflow incontinence: Extremely frequent urination and an inability to completely empty the bladder. Dribbling urine.
- Functional incontinence: When you can’t move, think or communicate well enough to get to the bathroom on time. Most prevalent among the elderly and people with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
- Mixed incontinence: A combination of the symptoms described above.
Nerve damage and prostate problems (in men) can cause incontinence.
Here’s good news: A number of treatment options are available, so you can take steps yourself to remedy UI. If self care doesn’t help, your health care provider can discuss approaches that may work for you and your lifestyle. Here are some of the common medical treatments:
- Behavioral modification therapy: Your provider can suggest techniques for you to adopt. These can include limiting the amount of fluid you drink, eliminating caffeine (which can irritate your bladder) or teaching yourself to hold your urine longer.
- Physical therapy or exercises: These strengthen your pelvic floor, the group of muscles that help to control urine flow.
- Vaginal insert (pessary): Meant to support the urethra, these removable vaginal inserts can help prevent stress incontinence.
- Medications: Some block chemical messages in the nerves around the bladder, which relax the bladder muscles to increase your bladder capacity.
- Injections of medications: Certain substances can thicken your urethra wall so it seals more tightly to stop urine from leaking.
- Botox: For women who haven’t been helped by other injections, Botox injections can relax overactive bladder muscles. Benefits can last several months. Repeat injections may be needed once or twice each year.
- Sling procedures: During this minimally invasive surgery, your provider puts a sling made of synthetic or natural material around your urethra to support it, which helps prevent stress incontinence.
About the Author
Jamie H. Chao, MD specializes in female pelvic medicine, reconstructive surgery and urogynecology in Franklin and West Allis, WI.