Urinary incontinence occurs in a range of different people regardless of age and gender. It doesn’t just occur in the elderly and isn’t a natural part of the ageing process. Women as well as men can both be affected by bladder problems but generally women are more affected than men. Women tend to have bladder problems which stem from stress put onto the bladder. In fact around 1 in 5 women over 40 have some level of stress incontinence.
Stress incontinence is the most common type of bladder problem amongst women. When pressure has been put on the bladder and the pelvic floor becomes weakened, urine can escape. This type of pressure on the bladder can come from carrying a baby or even weight gain.
If the pelvic floor muscles are weakened they are no longer able to support the bladder and fully keep the urethra closed. As the urethra is always slightly open, it can cause urine to then leak out. When there is a slight amount of pressure applied to the urethra for instance whilst coughing, sneezing or laughing, then urine may leak out.
If someone has a hysterectomy it can damage the pelvic floor muscles, as the uterus is removed which can lead to incontinence. Over time, as a female gets older, the levels of oestrogen are reduced and this then affects the stomach muscles. The bladder then shifts its focus and the muscles around the urinary tract become less effective.
There are bladder strengthening exercises which will help to prevent stress incontinence. Kegel exercises are ideal for this. To do kegel exercises, squeeze your muscles as if you’re trying to stop yourself from urinating. Don’t however do this whilst you’re urinating as it can cause more harm than good. You can literally do this exercise whilst you're sitting down. You need to do these exercises every day for five minutes five times a day.
Urge incontinence is the second most common type of incontinence which is when you get a sudden urge to urinate and it becomes so strong that you sometimes don’t make it to the bathroom. This is normally due to bladder spasms and muscle contractions. This can be due to damage to nerve signals from a stroke, dementia, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury.
If you have the constant urge to go to the bathroom it may be that you haven’t fully emptied your bladder. If this is a recurring problem then try doing self catheterisation as this will get rid of any left behind urine that will aggravate the bladder and make you feel like you need to go to the bathroom.
You can have multiple symptoms of stress and urge incontinence which is called mixed incontinence. Incontinence isn’t a defined condition but symptoms of other underlying health problems. Incontinence will vary within females so depending on the individual it could also be caused by diabetes, cystitis, or medication. It’s important to get a doctor to check you out before deciding on a course of action.