Incontinence

Female incontinence is the uncontrollable loss of urine.

This is most commonly associated with childbearing but may be associated with steroid therapy which has weakened tissues. The most common treatment for incontinence is a surgical procedure which is now frequently performed on an outpatient basis. Diagnostic tests for this problem include: a urine culture, a urine flow test, cystometrogram, cystogram, and Cystoscopy.

There are three kinds of bladder incontinence:

Stress Incontinence

Involves the leakage of small amounts of urine during physical stress such as lifting heavy objects, getting up from a chair, coughing, sneezing, or laughing. It is estimated that one in ten women of all ages and one of five women over 40 suffer from it. Stress incontinence results from weak pelvic floor muscles which allow the pelvic organs to slip out of place resulting in increased pressure on the abdominal cavity and the bladder. Treatment for this problem includes pelvic floor exercises to increase muscle tone; estrogen therapy to increase pliability, and surgery to return the bladder and urethra to the correct position.

Overflow Incontinence

Involves the dribbling of urine throughout the day. Women with this problem may experience trouble emptying their bladder or may be unable to urinate at all. This kind of incontinence may be the result of scar tissue or prolapsed organs which have narrowed the urethra. As a result, the bladder stays constantly full and the pressure on the neck of the bladder results in leakage. People with overflow incontinence may also have urge incontinence. Causes include pelvic surgery, childbirth, medication, injured nerves or an overstretched bladder. Treatment includes medication, intermittent self-catheterization, or surgery.

Urge Incontinence

Involves a strong uncontrollable urge to urinate. Women with this problem must rush to a bathroom immediately or they may wet themselves. This kind of incontinence is caused by an overly sensitive bladder which feels full even when it contains a small amount of urine. The bladder contracts unexpectedly, the bladder neck opens, and if the external sphincter is weak, the urine is released. People with urge incontinence may also experience overflow incontinence. Treatment includes drugs to relax bladder contractions, estrogen to increase sphincter strength, antibacterial drugs, and pelvic floor exercises.