Know the basics
What is female incontinence?
Female incontinence is the accidental release of urine. It is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine to having an urge to urinate, which is sudden and you do not go to a toilet in time.
It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of female incontinence?
The main symptom is the accidental release of urine.
- With stress incontinence, you may leak a small to medium amount of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or do similar things.
- With urge incontinence, you may leak a larger amount of urine that can soak your clothes or run down your legs.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
Also, complications of chronic urinary incontinence include:
- Skin problems: rashes, skin infections and sores can develop from constantly wet skin.
- Urinary tract infections: incontinence increases your risk of repeated urinary tract infections.
- Impacts on your personal life: urinary incontinence can affect your social, work and personal relationships.
When should I see my doctor?
If incontinence is frequent or affecting your quality of life, it is important to seek medical advice.
Know the causes
What are the causes of female incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is a symptom rather than a disease. It can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems. Generally, there are two main kinds of urinary incontinence.
- Stress incontinence occurs when you sneeze, cough, laugh, jog, or do other things that put pressure on your bladder. It is the most common type of bladder control problem in women.
- Urge incontinence happens when you have a strong need to urinate but cannot go the toilet in time. This can happen even when your bladder is holding only a small amount of urine. Some women may have no warning before they accidentally leak urine. Other women may leak urine when they drink water or when they hear or touch running water. Overactive bladder is a kind of urge incontinence. But not everyone with overactive bladder leaks urine.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for female incontinence?
Factors that increase your risk of developing urinary incontinence include:
- Getting older;
- Being overweight;
- Neurological disease or diabetes.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is female incontinence diagnosed?
Doctors will ask about your condition such as what or how much you drink, how often and how much you urinate and leak.
Doctors will examine you and may do some simple tests to look for the cause of your bladder control problem. If he or she thinks it may be caused by more than one problem, you will likely to have more tests, such as:
- Urinalysis to check for signs of infection, traces of blood or other abnormalities.
- Bladder diary to record how much you drink, when you urinate, the amount of urine you produce, and the number of incontinence episodes.
- Post-void residual measurement to check the amount of leftover urine in your bladder by using a catheter or ultrasound test.
If further information is needed, your doctor may recommend:
- Urodynamic testing to help measure your bladder strength and urinary sphincter health.
- Cystoscopy to check for abnormalities in your urinary tract.
- Cystogram to help reveal problems with your urinary tract.
- Pelvic ultrasound to check for abnormalities.
How is female incontinence treated?
Depending on incontinence types, doctors will apply different treatments, such as:
These techniques are to help to control your bladder and urination, including:
- Bladder training;
- Double voiding;
- Scheduled toilet trips;
- Fluid and diet management.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises
Your doctor may recommend that you do these exercises frequently to strengthen the muscles that help control urination. To do pelvic floor muscle exercises, imagine that you are trying to stop your urine flow. Then:
- Tighten the muscles you would use to stop urinating and hold for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds.
- Work up to holding the contractions for 10 seconds at a time.
- Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions each day.
Electrodes are temporarily inserted into your rectum or vagina to stimulate and strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Gentle electrical stimulation can be effective for stress incontinence and urge incontinence, but you may need multiple treatments over several months.
Medications commonly used to treat incontinence include:
- Anticholinergics: these medications can calm an overactive bladder and may be helpful for urge incontinence.
- Mirabegron: this medication relaxes the bladder muscle and increases the amount of urine your bladder hold.
- Topical estrogen: this may reduce some symptoms of incontinence.
These help to control trigger incontinence and prevent urine leakage. Devices designed to treat women with incontinence such as urethral insert or pessary.
Interventional therapies that may help with incontinence include:
- Bulking material injections;
- Botulinum toxin type A (Botox);
- Nerve stimulators.
If other treatments are not working, several surgical procedures can treat the problems that cause urinary incontinence:
- Sling procedures;
- Bladder neck suspension;
- Prolapse surgery.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage female incontinence?
In many cases, these lifestyle changes can help to control incontinence.
- Reduce your caffeine drinks;
- Eat foods high in fiber;
- Stop smoking;
- Keep your healthy weight;
- Do regular pelvic-floor exercises;
- Keep track of your symptoms and any leaking of urine with a bladder diary.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Urinary incontinence. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/basics/definition/con-20037883. Accessed September 4th, 2016.
Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center. http://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/womens-guide/urinary-incontinence-in-women-topic-overview. Accessed September 4th, 2016.
Review Date: October 1, 2016 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019