Urinary Incontinence: Types and Treatments

If you're like many older women, you may think urinary incontinence is inevitable. Not so, says Sherry Barinowski, M.D., a board-certified family medicine physician who practices at University Hospital. "Urinary incontinence is a common problem, but it is not necessarily a function of aging."

Urinary incontinence is not a disease but an indication of an underlying problem or condition that can likely be treated. There are four main types of urinary incontinence.

  • Stress incontinence is the most common. It occurs when a person exerts stress on the bladder by laughing, exercising or heavy lifting. "In women, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can cause physical changes that lead to this condition. In men, it can be caused by removal of the prostate gland," Dr. Barinowski says.

  • Urge incontinence, or overactive bladder, is the sudden and intense need to urinate, followed by a loss of urine. In this condition, the bladder contracts even when it isn't full. Men and women may feel the need to urinate frequently and even wake up at night to urinate. Hearing running water or drinking liquids may also bring on the urge.

  • Overflow incontinence results in frequent or constant dribbling of urine caused by an inability to empty the bladder, making it overflow and leak urine. People who suffer from overflow incontinence may feel as if they can never completely empty their bladders. This type of incontinence is common in people with weak bladders and men with prostate gland problems.

  • Mixed incontinence occurs when people have more than one type of incontinence. Some older women, for example, may have both urge and stress incontinence.

If you're bothered by incontinence, see your physician. “There are many good treatments, including behavioral techniques, drugs and surgery that can eliminate or manage this problem. Incontinence is generally very treatable," says Dr. Barinowski.

For more information or to find a physician experienced in treating incontinence or other urological conditions, call ASK-A-NURSE at SER-VICE (737-8423) or 1-800-476-7378 (SERV).

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