It’s nobody’s favorite topic for discussion, but urinary incontinence, or the accidental leaking of urine, happens to over 15 million american adults. Though many people are too embarrassed to talk about urinary incontinence, and suffer in silence with the emotional and psychological problems and social limitations that often accompany the accidents, this disease can be treated. Here are some of the basic facts about the causes and treatments of urinary incontinence:

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence affects a diverse population, and there are many causes and contributors to the disease. Here are some of the common causes:

  • vaginal or urinary tract infections in women
  • enlarged prostate in men
  • side effects of certain medications
  • constipation
  • some types of surgery
  • pregnancy and childbirth
  • overactive bladder
  • weakness of pelvis, bladder or sphincter muscles
  • diseases and disorders involving the nervous system muscles
  • diabetes
  • dehydration

Of the many contributing factors to urinary incontinence, the most common are neurologic diseases, prostatic diseases, and issues associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Age is also a factor in urinary incontinence. As the body ages, it loses muscle tone in the muscles that you can see, such as your biceps, and also the internal muscles that you don’t see, such as those surrounding the bladder. In addition, decreased estrogen levels in menopausal women can can be a contributing factor.

How is Urinary Incontinence Diagnosed?

The first steps to a urinary incontinence diagnosis are a physical exam and a medical history. Your urologist will ask questions about your family and medical history, as well a your habits and fluid intake. Usually a urinalysis and a cough stress test will be performed during the physical exam.

If your urologist deems it necessary based on the preliminary findings, then a cystoscopy or urodynamics may be the next diagnostic step. A cystoscopy involves placing a small scope or camera through the urethra and into the bladder for a visual diagnosis. Urodynamics is done by inserting a tiny tube in the bladder through the urethra. The bladder is then filled, and pressure measurements are recorded while the bladder is being emptied.

Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence

Because of the array of contributing factors to urinary incontinence, there are also a variety of treatment options. Some treatment options are suited for men, while others work best for a woman’s anatomy. Typically, the first line of treatment for incontinence in women will include management techniques such as fluid intake management, bladder training or pelvic exercises. Periurethral injections, done under a local anesthesia, is a treatment option that can be considered, as well as several medications. For more severe symptoms, surgery may be the best treatment option. Some of the surgical treatment options for women include sub urethral sling procedures, retropubic colposuspension, bladder neck needle suspension, and anterior vaginal repair. The best treatment for your urinary incontinence will depend on the particular cause. Women should consult a urologist for a proper diagnosis, a detailed description of treatment options and the potential success rates and side effects for each.

For men, the first line of treatment for urinary incontinence will also be behavior modifications and pelvic exercises. Medications or periurethral injections can also be effective treatment options for men. Surgical treatments for men include a male sling, and an artificial urinary sphincter. As with women, men also need to know the cause of their urinary incontinence in order to determine the best treatment.

As you can see, the basic facts surrounding urinary incontinence can raise as many questions as answers. Each patient is an individual, and each diagnosis and treatment will be determined by the unique circumstances and contributing factors of the disease. If you are suffering from urinary incontinence, the first step is to discuss your situation with a urologist so that you can take control of this disease, and not let it control your life.