Get the facts about incontinence in women from our urologists
Women worry when they leak urine or need to rush to the bathroom frequently. However, embarrassment often keeps them from talking to a doctor. Our urologists want patients to understand incontinence in women so that they will ask questions and seek treatment for this common condition. Women of all ages have female urinary incontinence, and approximately 40% of women aged 65 and older have this problem. The condition affects two times more women than men.
What is female urinary incontinence?
Women who have urinary incontinence suffer from an inability to control their bladder function and that causes urine leakage. There are two primary types of urinary incontinence.
- Stress incontinence, the most common type of urinary incontinence in women, causes urine to leak out when women cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise. This condition occurs when the muscles that allow women to “hold” their urine become weak or damaged. It can also occur when the pelvic floor muscles get weak.
- Urge incontinence causes patients to feel sudden, uncontrollable urges to urinate. These urges are very intense and can happen immediately after emptying the bladder. Patients also experience urine leakage. This type of incontinence happens when the muscles that control the bladder become overactive, causing frequent bladder spasms.
Women can have either of these types of incontinence or a combination of both, known as mixed incontinence.
Why is urinary incontinence more common in women?
Women’s anatomy causes women to struggle with incontinence more often than men. Women have a shorter urethra, which is the small duct that transports urine to the bladder. This means any weakness or damage creates symptoms more quickly.
Women also experience life events, such as pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, which contribute to damage or weakening muscles in the pelvic floor and urinary tract.
What causes incontinence in women?
Several conditions cause female urinary incontinence.
- About half of pregnant women experience temporary and sometimes chronic problems with incontinence. Growing babies put pressure on the bladder and weaken the pelvic floor muscles. In addition, some women suffer from nerve damage during labor, especially during a vaginal birth, which can cause incontinence.
- When women go through menopause their estrogen levels decrease and their aging internal muscles frequently cause incontinence.
- Other factors that contribute to incontinence include obesity, surgery, some medications, chronic constipation, urinary tract infections and nerve damage caused by chronic conditions like diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of incontinence
Incontinence in women causes several symptoms.
- Frequent, intense urge to urinate
- Urine leakage when laughing, sneezing, coughing or exercising
- Pressure in the pelvic region
- Spasms or squeezing feelings in the bladder
- Leaking urine during the night
Women who experience any of the symptoms of incontinence should talk to our urologists. Our physicians have the training, expertise and compassion to treat and diagnose patients who have urinary incontinence problems. Contact us for an appointment.