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Urinary Incontinence Information

  • Urinary incontinence is the involuntary excretion of urine from one's body. It is often temporary, and it almost always results from an underlying medical condition...
  • Stress incontinence is essentially due to pelvic floor muscle weakness. It is loss of small amounts of urine with coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising or other movements that increase intraabdominal pressure and thus increase pressure on the bladder. Physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause often cause stress incontinence, and in men it is a common problem following a prostatectomy. It is the most common form of incontinence in women and is treatable.

    The urethra is supported by fascia of the pelvic floor. If the fascial support is weakened, as it can be in pregnancy and childbirth, the urethra can move downward at times of increased abdominal pressure, resulting in stress incontinence.

    Stress incontinence can worsen during the week before the menstrual period. At that time, lowered estrogen levels may lead to lower muscular pressure around the urethra, increasing chances of leakage. The incidence of stress incontinence increases following menopause, similarly because of lowered estrogen levels. LABS Urine analysis, cystometry and postvoid residual volume are normal.

    Urge incontinence is involuntary loss of urine occurring for no apparent reason while suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate. The most common cause of urge incontinence is involuntary and inappropriate detrusor muscle contractions.

    Idiopathic Detrusor Overactivity - Local or surrounding infection, inflammation or irritation of the bladder.

    Neurogenic Detrusor Overactivity - Defective CNS inhibitory response.

    Medical professionals describe such a bladder as "unstable," "spastic," or "overactive." Urge incontinence may also be called "reflex incontinence" if it results from overactive nerves controlling the bladder.

    Patients with urge incontinence can suffer incontinence during sleep, after drinking a small amount of water, or when they touch water or hear it running (as when washing dishes or hearing someone else taking a shower).

    Involuntary actions of bladder muscles can occur because of damage to the nerves of the bladder, to the nervous system (spinal cord and brain), or to the muscles themselves. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's Disease, stroke, and injury--including injury that occurs during surgery--can all harm bladder nerves or muscles.

    Functional incontinence occurs when a person does not recognise the need to go to the toilet, recognise where the toilet is, or get to the toilet in time. The urine loss may be large. Causes of functional incontinence include confusion, dementia, poor eyesight, poor mobility, poor dexterity, or unwillingness to toilet because of depression, anxiety or anger.

    People with functional incontinence may have problems thinking, moving, or communicating that prevent them from reaching a toilet. A person with Alzheimer's Disease, for example, may not think well enough to plan a timely trip to a restroom. A person in a wheelchair may be blocked from getting to a toilet in time. Conditions such as these are often associated with age and account for some of the incontinence of elderly women and men in nursing homes.

    Sometimes people find that they cannot stop their bladders from constantly dribbling, or continuing to dribble for some time after they have passed water. It is as if their bladders were like a constantly overflowing pan - hence the general name overflow incontinence. Overflow incontinence occurs when the patient's bladder is always full so that it frequently leaks urine. Weak bladder muscles, resulting in incomplete emptying of the bladder, or a blocked urethra can cause this type of incontinence. Autonomic neuropathy from diabetes or other diseases (e.g Multiple sclerosis )can decrease neural signals from the bladder (allowing for overfilling) and may also decrease the expulsion of urine by the detrusor muscle (allowing for urinary retention). Additionally, tumors and kidney stones can block the urethra. In men, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) may also restrict the flow of urine. Overflow incontinence is rare in women, although sometimes it is caused by fibroid or ovarian tumors. Spinal cord injuries or nervous system disorders are additional causes of overflow incontinence. Also overflow incontinence in women can be from increased outlet resistance from advanced vaginal prolapse causing a "kink" in the urethra or after an anti-incontinence procedure which has overcorrected the problem.

    Early symptoms include a hesitant or slow stream of urine during voluntary urination. Anticholinergic medications may worsen overflow incontinence.

    Kegel exercises to strengthen or retrain pelvic floor muscles and sphincter muscles can reduce or cure stress leakage. People of all ages can learn and practice these exercises, which are taught by a health care professional. Kegel exercises are sometimes difficult to do correctly and require a lot of time dedication.

    A more recently developed exercise technique suitable only for women involves the use of a set of five small vaginal cones of increasing weight. For this exercise, the patient simply places the small plastic cone within her vagina, where it is held in by a mild reflex contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. Because it is a reflex contraction, little effort is required on the part of the patient. This exercise is done twice a day for fifteen to twenty minutes, while standing or walking around, for example doing daily household tasks. As the pelvic floor muscles get stronger, cones of increasing weight can be used, thereby strengthening the muscles gradually.

    The advantage of this method is that the correct muscles are automatically exercised by holding in the cone, and the method is effective after a much shorter time. Clinical trials with vaginal cones have shown that the pelvic floor muscles start to become stronger within two to three weeks, and light to medium stress incontinence can resolve after eight to twelve weeks of use.

    Brief doses of electrical stimulation can strengthen muscles in the lower pelvis in a way similar to exercising the muscles. Electrodes are temporarily placed in the vagina or rectum to stimulate nearby muscles. This can stabilize overactive muscles and stimulate contraction of urethral muscles. Electrical stimulation can be used to reduce both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

    Biofeedback uses measuring devices to help the patient become aware of his or her body's functioning. By using electronic devices or diaries to track when the bladder and urethral muscles contract, the patient can gain control over these muscles. Biofeedback can be used with pelvic muscle exercises and electrical stimulation to relieve stress and urge incontinence.

    Timed voiding (urinating) and bladder training are techniques that use biofeedback. In timed voiding, the patient fills in a chart of voiding and leaking. From the patterns that appear in the chart, the patient can plan to empty his or her bladder before he or she would otherwise leak. Biofeedback and muscle conditioning--known as bladder training--can alter the bladder's schedule for storing and emptying urine. These techniques are effective for urge and overflow incontinence.

    Medications can reduce many types of leakage. Some drugs inhibit contractions of an overactive bladder. Others relax muscles, leading to more complete bladder emptying during urination. Some drugs tighten muscles at the bladder neck and urethra, preventing leakage. And some, especially hormones such as estrogen, are believed to cause muscles involved in urination to function normally.

    Pharmacological treatments of urinary incontinence: in vaginal atrophy - topical or vaginal estrogens; tolterodine, oxybutynin, propantheline, darifenacin, solifenacin, trospium in urge incontinence, imipramine in mixed and stress urinary incontinence, pseudoephedrine and duloxetine in stress urinary incontinence.

    Some of these medications can produce harmful side effects if used for long periods. In particular, estrogen therapy has been associated with an increased risk for cancers of the breast and endometrium (lining of the uterus). A patient should talk to a doctor about the risks and benefits of long-term use of medications.

    A pessary is a medical device that is inserted into the vagina. The most common kind is ring shaped, and is typically recommended to correct vaginal prolapse. The pessary compresses the urethra against the symphysis pubis and elevates the bladder neck. For some women this may reduce stress leakage. If a pessary is used, vaginal and urinary tract infections may occur and regular monitoring by a doctor is recommended.

    Doctors usually suggest surgery to alleviate incontinence only after other treatments have been tried. Many surgical options have high rates of success.

    Most stress incontinence in women results from the bladder dropping down toward the vagina. Therefore, common surgery for stress incontinence involves pulling the bladder up to a more normal position. Working through an incision in the vagina or abdomen, the surgeon raises the bladder and secures it with a string attached to muscle, ligament, or bone.

    For severe cases of stress incontinence, the surgeon may secure the bladder with a wide sling. This not only holds up the bladder but also compresses the bottom of the bladder and the top of the urethra, further preventing leakage.

    In rare cases, a surgeon implants an artificial sphincter, a doughnut-shaped sac that circles the urethra. A fluid fills and expands the sac, which squeezes the urethra closed. By pressing a valve implanted under the skin, the artificial sphincter can be deflated. This removes pressure from the urethra, allowing urine from the bladder to pass.

    If an incontinence is due to overflow incontinence, in which that bladder never empties completely, of if the bladder cannot empty because of poor muscle tone, past surgery, or spinal cord injury, a catheter may be used to empty the bladder. A catheter is a tube that can be inserted through the urethra into the bladder to drain urine. Catheters may be used once in a while or on a constant basis, in which case the tube connects to a bag that you can attach to your leg. If a long-term (or indwelling) catheter is used, urinary tract infections may occur.

    Many people manage urinary incontinence with pads that catch slight leakage during activities such as exercising. Also, incontinence may be managed by restricting certain liquids, such as coffee, tea, and alcohol.

    Finally, many people who could be treated resort instead to wearing absorbent, reusable undergarments which can hold 6 oz. or disposable diapers which can hold more. The reusable undergarments may be positive from a self-esteem perspective though depending on the amount of fluid being passed, disposable diapers can also be positive as they can hold more liquid and may eliminate leakage. Either can lead to skin irritation and sores if the urine is left in contact with the skin. The possible effectiveness of treatments such as timed voiding, pelvic muscle exercises, and electrical stimulation should be discussed with a doctor.

    Kneading the perineum immediately after urination can help expel unvoided urine retained by a urethral stricture, a urethral sphincter that is slow to close, or overdeveloped abdominal floor muscles and connective tissue (as may be developed by the stresses of ill fitting bicycle seats.)

    Hospitals often use some type of incontinence pad, a small but highly absobant sheet placed beneath the patient, to deal with incontinence or other unexpected discharges of bodily fluid. These pads are especially useful when it is not practical for the patient to wear a diaper.

    There are also trials taking place in the UK at the moment using Botox. It has been tested with some success under general anaesthetic conditions, and is currently (February 2006) being tried under local anaesthetic. While it originally appears that it may be quite successful for women, it does not appear to be as successful for men. Botox works for around 6-9 months when the treatment has to be redone.

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