The International Continence Society defines Urinary Incontinence as “a complaint of any involuntary leakage of urine”.
It can occur or as a result of abnormalities or physical stress in the lower urinary tract (sometimes caused by childbirth), gaining a large amount of weight, various diseases or simply natural body ageing where muscles and body tissues lose elasticity.
UI occurs because of problems with the muscles and nerves that hold or release urine. The bladder, which stores urine, is a muscular, balloon-like organ capable of stretching and contracting. The bladder muscle is called the detrusor muscle and this muscle contracts, causing the bladder to empty. It connects to the urethra, the tube through which urine leaves the body.
During normal urination, the detrusor muscle in the wall of the bladder contracts, forcing urine out of the bladder and into the urethra. At the same time, the sphincter muscles surrounding the urethra relax, letting urine pass. Incontinence occurs if your bladder muscles suddenly contract or the sphincter muscles are not strong enough to hold back urine.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
UI is far more common than you realise, and it affects millions of women.
At some stage in our lives, a majority of us will suffer some degree of urinary incontinence, whether it is because of pregnancy, later on in maturity or finally in old age. It is a condition that is not only inconvenient, it is also embarrassing and restrictive on the normal every day routine of life and can cause social withdrawal and depression in women who suffer more severe symptoms of incontinence.
It is one of the hidden conditions that is only now being brought out in the open and discussed by women, not only with each other but thankfully, also with their doctors. Urinary incontinence today is not a taboo subject any more but is perceived as more of a universal condition which needs to be managed and improved wherever possible, not only for women, but for older men as well.
Great advances have been made in recent years with new laser treatments which can help to improve bladder function, along with various surgical treatments in more severe cases of urine leakage. These procedures can assist the bladder in collecting and storing urine as it used to, a far more positive outcome than having to exist with a bladder involuntarily leaking its contents.