What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Learn the tips doctors share with their patients who suffer from urinary incontinence.

Sanaz Majd, MD,

Stress incontinence: A simple cough, sneeze, laugh, or other exertion can trigger urine leakage in those with stress incontinence.  Exertion causes increased pressure on the abdomen, which then presses on the bladder and pushes open the sphincter, a “doorway” that allows the urine to leak out. This type is most common in women with prior pregnancies. And when the stress incontinence is severe enough, even very light levels of activity can trigger it.

Mixed incontinence:  The most common of the three types of incontinence is a mixture of the two types already mentioned.  These unlucky ladies have both overactive bladders and a leaky sphincter. 

Overflow incontinence:  A less common cause of urine leakage, this happens with the bladder isn’t able to empty completely.  And once it gets full, it releases urine.

Pelvic organ prolapse:  In women with a history of multiple pregnancies (although it can occur in those with a single pregnancy history as well), organs of the pelvis may hang loose and lower due to weakened pelvic muscles.

How to Treat Urinary Incontinence

If you suffer from urinary incontinence, you have a few treatment options:

  • Avoid diuretics:  Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are both diuretics that cause you to urinate more.

  • Restrict fluid intake:  Drink no more than two liters of fluid daily, and don’t drink within two hours of sleep if nighttime urination is an issue, a medical symptom referred to as “nocturia.”

  • Schedule powder room visits:  Schedule powder room visits every two hours, whether or not you feel the need to void.

  • Review your medications: Review your medication list with your doctor, as some over-the-counter and prescribed medicines can worsen incontinence.

  • Get lab tests:  See your doctor, who will likely order a urine and blood test to check your kidney function, check for urinary tract infections, and check for diabetes, which can affect urinary symptoms.

  • Do Kegel exercises:  Kegel exercises are pelvic muscle strengthening exercises performed in three sets of eight to twelve slow contractions that last eight seconds, and they should be performed multiple times a day for at least twenty weeks. For more information, see this link


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