Just a Wee Problem? The Facts About Urinary Incontinence, and Treatment Available
It’s not known exactly how many people in the UK have urinary incontinence. However, according to the NHS, the problem may be more widespread than you might believe. In fact, it’s thought that as many as 6 million people in the UK will suffer from incontinence at some stage in their lives.
In spite of its prevalence, it still remains something of a taboo. Here’s some useful information about urinary incontinence, and the different types of treatment available if you suffer from this condition.
Urinary Incontinence: What is it?
Urinary incontinence is actually an umbrella term for certain conditions that involve the premature or urgent release of urine. There are two main types of urinary incontinence. These are:
- Stress incontinence. This has nothing to do with feeling stressed. Instead, the term refers to urine leaking out when the body is under stress; for example, when sneezing or laughing.
- Urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is when you experience a sudden, urgent need to pass urine. You’re likely to produce urine either during the sensation, or shortly afterwards.
What Causes the Condition?
Although incontinence doesn’t necessarily occur as you age, it is more prevalent in the elderly, and as many as 1 in 3 women over the age of 60 have the condition. A US study from 2008 also found links between elderly women on hormone therapy and increased risk of incontinence.
Pregnancy or an enlarged prostate gland can also contribute to the problem, and obesity can exacerbate symptoms, by placing extra pressure on the area. Likewise, if you’ve got a family history of urinary incontinence, you’re more likely to develop it yourself.
Often, urinary incontinence is caused by damage to or weakening of the muscles that support the bladder. Certain medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis, can also affect bladder function.
Addressing the Problem
If your problem is mild, you may be able to improve the symptoms yourself. One of the most beneficial things you can do is to focus on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles; which are the muscles you can feel working when you try to pause your flow of urine.
According to a study carried out by Professor Alison Huang from the University of California, yoga can also help improve symptoms. The research, which involved 20 women, all of whom suffered from urinary incontinence, found that those who took part in regular yoga classes experienced a 70% reduction in the frequency of their urine leakage.
‘Yoga has been directed at a variety of other conditions,’ Huang comments, ‘but there’s also a reason to think it could help for incontinence as well.’
Non-Surgical Solutions for Urinary Incontinence
If your problem is moderate to severe, you may want to talk to your GP and discuss alternative solutions. There are a variety of non-surgical treatments available, such as electrical stimulation, which uses an electrical current to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, or biofeedback, which uses either a small probe or electrodes inserted into the vagina or anus to measure how well you are using your pelvic floor muscles.
Surgery and Medication
If non-invasive techniques are unsuccessful, you may be considered a suitable candidate for surgery or medication. However, it is important to note that there have been significant developments in treatment for urinary incontinence, such as the Urolift technique, which uses a small anchor device to cure an enlarged prostate, or even nerve stimulation, by inserting a needle into the ankle.
To find out which treatment is best suited to you, it’s important to speak to your GP and get a full medical assessment.