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Understanding Urinary Incontinence

Many individuals struggle with urinary incontinence today. This loss of bladder control embarrasses them, and they may hesitate to talk to their doctor about the problem. Some people find they leak urine when they cough or sneeze. Other people find they suddenly must urinate and they cannot make it to the bathroom in time. While urinary incontinence affects seniors more than other age groups, no person must live with this condition. Most people find they can reduce or eliminate the symptoms through lifestyle and dietary changes. If these measures don’t work, the doctor may recommend other treatments.  

The Effects of Urinary Incontinence

People often assume this problem is a medical condition that affects them physically. However, it goes beyond this. A person with this disorder will find it affects them emotionally, socially, and psychologically. They may avoid normal daily activities as they fear being far from a toilet. Their quality of life declines, as they may no longer enjoy preferred activities. Treatment allows these men and women to resume normal activities without fear of an accident. 

What Causes Urinary Incontinence? 

The kidneys produce urine, which is then stored in the bladder. When a person needs to urinate, muscles in the bladder tighten to force the urine into the urethra. While this is happening, muscles around the urethra relax to allow the urine to exit the body. 

When the muscles in the bladder tighten and the sphincter muscles around the urethra don’t close, the person feels an overwhelming urge to urinate. They may be unable to control this urge. In addition, pressure on the bladder can lead to urine leaking unintentionally. For some men and women, the nerves responsible for controlling the bladder muscles and urethra don’t work properly. 

Types of Urinary Incontinence

Women suffer from urinary incontinence more than men. In fact, 40 percent of women over the age of 65 suffer from this condition, and they typically have one of two types of urinary incontinence. 

Stress urinary incontinence remains the most common incontinence condition diagnosed today. In addition, it affects younger women. When pressure or stress is put on the bladder, the woman leaks urine. This is due to pressure being put on the bladder and urethra because of weak pelvic floor muscles. Everyday activities can lead to the woman leaking urine, including physical activity and laughing. 

Urgency urinary incontinence, in contrast, occurs when the woman has a sudden urge to urinate and cannot reach the bathroom in time. Some women find they can make it to the bathroom when this urge strikes, but they must visit the bathroom eight or more times each day. When they visit the bathroom, they urinate very little. Often referred to as overactive bladder, urge incontinence affects older women more than younger ladies. 

A woman may suffer from both types of incontinence. Doctors refer to this as mixed incontinence. 

Men are more likely to suffer from overflow incontinence. This occurs when the bladder cannot hold the urine produced by the body. It may also be the result of a full bladder than cannot empty. Urine leaks from the bladder in this situation. The male will constantly drip urine or they will only urinate a small amount. Men suffering from prostate problems and those who have undergone prostate surgery may develop this condition. 

Some people suffer from temporary incontinence. This incontinence often comes with alcohol use, caffeine consumption, a urinary tract infection, and other things. 

When Should a Doctor Be Seen?

Visit your doctor when the incontinence interferes with daily life or you feel as if you spend more time in the bathroom than anywhere else. Besides affecting the quality of life and causing a person to restrict their normal activities and social interactions, urinary incontinence may increase the risk of a senior falling as they attempt to get to the bathroom. Furthermore, urinary incontinence may be a symptom of a more serious condition. 

Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence

When a patient reports symptoms of urinary incontinence, the doctor will do a complete physical exam. They may then ask the patient to demonstrate incontinence through coughing, laughing, or something that may bring on symptoms. The doctor will request a urinalysis to look for infection, abnormalities, and traces of blood. They may also ask you to complete a bladder diary, documenting the amount you drink, how often you urinate, how much urine you produce, how strong the urge to urinate is, and how many times you experience incontinence episodes. 

Your doctor is likely to start with a thorough history and physical exam. They may have you do a simple maneuver that can demonstrate incontinence, such as coughing. The doctor may also conduct a postvoid residual measurement to determine how much urine remains in the bladder once you urinate. This rules out any obstructions and problems with the nerves or muscles of the bladder. 


Doctors treat urinary incontinence using several methods. They initially recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to see if these methods reduce the symptoms. This might include bladder training, double voiding, fluid and diet management, and scheduled trips to the bathroom. If these methods do not work, the doctor may provide exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. 

Medications, electrical stimulation, medical devices, and interventional therapies are other treatment options. The doctor may recommend surgery in certain situations. Furthermore, some patients find they benefit from absorbent pads and catheters. 

Don’t live with urinary incontinence. People often avoid talking to their doctor about this condition and shouldn’t. It’s more common than people realize. Once you speak with your doctor, treatment options can be discussed and tried. With the right treatment, you can resume normal activities, knowing constant trips to the bathroom and accidents will be things of the past. Your quality of life will improve. Who doesn’t want this? Reach out to your doctor now. 

About Atlantic Urology Clinics:

Atlantic Urology Clinics provides integrative care using leading technology and treats patients with the help of eight facilities located throughout Horry and Georgetown counties. Comprehensive and state-of-the-art services offered include integrative cancer care and traditional urology diagnostics and treatments. Thirteen board-certified urologists and one board-eligible urologist provide this treatment with proficiency and exceptional skill. 

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