Leaking out urine may be embarrassing and seen as something that only occurs to young children or the elderly. However, this act may be more common than you think and usually occurs during laughing, coughing, sneezing or picking up something heavy.
While losing bladder control once in awhile is alright, you want to ensure that your bladder leaks are not symptoms of a condition called Urinary Incontinence.
Here’s all you need to know about it and some myths that are definitely not true.
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control.
Urine is stored in the bladder, which has muscles that tighten when you need to urinate. The bladder muscles tighten and force urine out through a tube called the urethra. At the same time, sphincter muscles around the urethra relax to let the urine out of the body.
When the sphincter muscles are not strong enough to pinch the urethra shut when the bladder muscles are tightened, this causes a sudden, strong and uncontrollable urge to urinate. This is called incontinence. Pressure caused by laughing, sneezing or exercising may trigger urine leaks.
Problem with the nerves that control the bladder muscles and urethra may also lead to urinary incontinence. The urine that leaks can either be a small amount or all at once.
There are four types of urinary incontinence:
The following groups are at risk of urinary incontinence:
Yes. Women have unique health events such as pregnancy, childbirth and menopause that may affect the urinary tract and its surrounding muscles. These events may cause the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and urinary tract to weaken. When muscles supporting the urinary tract weaken, they must work harder to hold urine. Sometimes, this extra stress can pressure may cause urinary incontinence.
Additionally, the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra, which means any weakness or damage in a woman’s urethra is more likely to cause urinary incontinence. This is because there is less muscle keeping the urine in.
Apart from asking you questions regarding your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may do tests such as:
No. Many people think that bladder leaks are caused by drinking too much water and that they need to drink less to reduce the amount of urine that leaks out. However, it is important to be well hydrated for good health.
Getting in enough fluids prevents urinary tract infections, dehydration, keeps your kidneys and bladder healthy and prevents constipation. In fact, being dehydrated may make conditions of urinary incontinence worse.
If anything, you should reduce alcohol and caffeine intake as alcohol and caffeine can irritate or stress the bladder.
This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Tan Poh Kok (PK Tan), a Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at PK Women’s Specialist Clinic.