The first thing to understand about urinary incontinence is that you’re far from alone. About 1 in 4 women in the United States struggles with the involuntary leakage that is the hallmark of urinary incontinence.
While there may be some comfort in knowing you’re not alone, it does little to help you overcome this significant quality-of-life issue, which is where we come in.
Dr. Denise Furlong and our team here at Chicago Center for Women's Health understand the many challenges that women face when it comes to urinary incontinence — twice as many women than men develop the condition.
Types of urinary incontinence
The first step toward resolving urinary incontinence is to determine which type is affecting you. To that end, we review the three most common here.
You sneeze, cough, or laugh too hard and urine leaks out. These are signs of stress incontinence. With this type of incontinence, extra pressure on your bladder forces urine out, causing unwanted leakage.
Most pregnant women are all too familiar with stress incontinence, as the growing fetus places pressure on the bladder. Thankfully, this problem tends to resolve itself after delivery, though some women may experience ongoing problems if the delivery weakened their pelvic floor muscles.
Outside of pregnancy, being overweight, going through menopause, and undergoing pelvic surgery can also weaken your pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to stress incontinence.
Also called overactive bladder (OAB), this type of incontinence is much different from stress incontinence. With urge incontinence, you experience sudden and uncontrollable urges to urinate, which sometimes result in leakage if you’re unable to find a bathroom quickly enough.
These urges can happen frequently throughout the day and night, greatly disrupting your life.
The cause of this type of incontinence stems from poor signaling from your bladder. Under normal circumstances, your bladder sends a message to your brain when it’s full, prompting you to void it. When you do, your bladder relaxes and waits until the next fill-up to send the signal again.
With urge incontinence, your bladder muscles are overly active and are signaling that your bladder is full when it’s not.
There are many different factors that can lead to OAB, such as menopause, weak pelvic muscles, urinary tract infections, and neurological issues.
Many women have problems with both of the forms of incontinence we mention above, stress and urge. This is called mixed incontinence.
While there are other types of incontinence, such as functional incontinence (you physically can’t get to a bathroom in time), these three represent the lion’s share of the problem.
How we treat incontinence
As we mentioned, identifying which type of urinary incontinence you’re dealing with is the first step toward finding a solution. Once we understand what’s causing your problem, we take the steps necessary to help you regain control over your bladder.
To give you an idea, we often turn to these treatments:
- Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels)
- Bladder training
- Lifestyle changes
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Pessaries to support your lower urinary tract
Rest assured, there are solutions for your urinary incontinence, and we work with you to find the right treatment for your situation.
To figure out which approach is right for your urinary incontinence, contact one of our locations in Naperville, Oak Lawn, or Bedford, Illinois, to schedule an appointment.