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Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence (UI) is loss of bladder control. Symptoms can range from mild leaking to uncontrollable wetting. It can happen to anyone, but it becomes more common with age. Women experience UI twice as often as men.

Most bladder control problems happen when muscles are too weak or too active. If the muscles that keep your bladder closed are weak, you may have accidents when you sneeze, laugh or lift a heavy object. This is stress incontinence. If bladder muscles become too active, you may feel a strong urge to go to the bathroom when you have little urine in your bladder. This is urge incontinence or overactive bladder. There are other causes of incontinence, such as prostate problems and nerve damage.

Treatment depends on the type of problem you have and what best fits your lifestyle. It may include simple exercises, medicines, special devices or procedures prescribed by your doctor, or surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Bladder Diseases

The bladder is a hollow organ in your lower abdomen that stores urine. Many conditions can affect your bladder. Some common ones are

  • Cystitis - inflammation of the bladder, often from an infection
  • Urinary incontinence - loss of bladder control
  • Overactive bladder - a condition in which the bladder squeezes urine out at the wrong time
  • Interstitial cystitis - a chronic problem that causes bladder pain and frequent, urgent urination
  • Bladder cancer

Doctors diagnose bladder diseases using different tests. These include urine tests, x-rays, and an examination of the bladder wall with a scope called a cystoscope. Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. It may include medicines and, in severe cases, surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Pelvic Support Problems

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and other tissues that form a sling or hammock across the pelvis. In women, it holds the uterus, bladder, bowel, and other pelvic organs in place so that they can work properly. The pelvic floor can become weak or be injured. The main causes are pregnancy and childbirth. Other causes include being overweight, radiation treatment, surgery, and getting older.

Common symptoms include

  • Feeling heaviness, fullness, pulling, or aching in the vagina. It gets worse by the end of the day or during a bowel movement.
  • Seeing or feeling a "bulge" or "something coming out" of the vagina
  • Having a hard time starting to urinate or emptying the bladder completely
  • Having frequent urinary tract infections
  • Leaking urine when you cough, laugh, or exercise
  • Feeling an urgent or frequent need to urinate
  • Feeling pain while urinating
  • Leaking stool or having a hard time controlling gas
  • Being constipated
  • Having a hard time making it to the bathroom in time

Your health care provider diagnoses the problem with a physical exam, a pelvic exam, or special tests. Treatments include special pelvic muscle exercises called Kegel exercises. A mechanical support device called a pessary helps some women. Surgery and medicines are other treatments.

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder is a condition in which the bladder squeezes urine out at the wrong time. You may have overactive bladder if you have two or more of these symptoms:

  • You urinate eight or more times a day or two or more times at night
  • You have the sudden, strong need to urinate immediately
  • You leak urine after a sudden, strong urge to urinate

You also may have incontinence, a loss of bladder control. Nerve problems, too much fluid, or too much caffeine can cause it. Often the cause is unknown.

Your doctor may prescribe a medicine that can calm muscles and nerves. The medicine may come as a pill, a liquid, or a patch. The medicines can cause your eyes to become dry. They can also cause dry mouth and constipation. To deal with these effects, use eye drops to keep your eyes moist, chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy if dry mouth bothers you, and take small sips of water throughout the day.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Urine and Urination

Your kidneys make urine by filtering wastes and extra water from your blood. The waste is called urea. Your blood carries it to the kidneys. From the kidneys, urine travels down two thin tubes called ureters to the bladder. The bladder stores urine until you are ready to urinate. It swells into a round shape when it is full and gets smaller when empty. If your urinary system is healthy, your bladder can hold up to 16 ounces (2 cups) of urine comfortably for 2 to 5 hours.

You may have problems with urination if you have

  • Kidney failure
  • Urinary tract infections
  • An enlarged prostate
  • Bladder control problems like incontinence, overactive bladder, or interstitial cystitis
  • A blockage that prevents you from emptying your bladder

Some conditions may also cause you to have blood or protein in your urine. If you have a urinary problem, see your health care provider. Urinalysis and other urine tests can help to diagnose the problem. Treatment depends on the cause.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases