As women get older, many of us deal with leaking urine.
The condition known as urinary incontinence can be embarrassing, and even lead to isolation and depression. If you’ve got this problem, you’re not alone. If you haven’t yet been diagnosed with incontinence, you may be wondering if it will happen to you soon enough.
Is incontinence a normal part of aging?
Understanding Urinary Incontinence
The loss of bladder control known as urinary incontinence has different types and varying degrees of severity. It might mean you occasionally leak urine when you cough or sneeze, or you may have a sudden urge to urinate—one that’s so strong you don’t get to a toilet in time.1
There are different types of urinary incontinence:1
1. Stress incontinence: happens when your bladder is pressured, like when you cough, sneeze, laugh or lift something heavy, or when you’re exercising.
2. Urge incontinence: is when you experience a sudden, intense urge to urinate, such that you leak urine. This condition could be caused by a minor condition like an infection or something more severe like diabetes.
3. Overflow incontinence: happens when your bladder doesn’t empty completely, so you have frequent or constant dribbling of urine.
4. Mixed incontinence: this is a combination of more than one type, usually stress and urge incontinence.
There are also situations when people with normal bladder control can’t get to the bathroom in time because of a disorder—like when arthritis prevents them from moving quickly. This is called functional incontinence.
It is true that incontinence occurs more often as we age, it is not an “inevitable consequence” of aging.1
Is Incontinence A Normal Part Of Aging
In short—no. Incontinence is not inevitable as we age. Young women, especially athletes, have bladder leakage too. One in four women between 18 and 59 have involuntary leakage.2 So while aging may increase the likelihood of incontinence, it does not make it a normal part of aging.
It’s estimated that a half of women experiencing leakage don’t tell their doctor about it due to shame, or thinking it is a normal part of the aging process.2 It’s true that age can contribute to urine leaks, but incontinence can also be a warning sign that something else is wrong.3
Here are some factors that can increase your risk of urinary incontinence:3
- urinary stones
- weak pelvic floor muscles
- a more serious issue like a neurological disorder
More women suffer from incontinence than men, because of changes to our bodies through pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. Pregnancy and childbirth puts pressure on the bladder, which strains and weakens the pelvic muscles. A hysterectomy can result in a rearrangement of the surrounding pelvic organs. Added to that, multiple pregnancies, large babies, weight gain, constipation, and pelvic trauma—along with smoking—can all impact bladder function.4
Seeking treatment for incontinence is important, since it may indicate a more serious underlying condition. It can also cause you to restrict activities, limit social interactions, and negatively impact your quality of life. In older women, it can increase the risk of falls as you rush to the toilet.1 Urinary incontinence can also cause skin irritation and lead to urinary tract infections.4
In short, untreated urinary incontinence can have a negative impact on your health, including your mental health. Urinary incontinence can be treated, helping to ease your worries and improve your quality of life. You don’t have to “just live with it.”5
Treatments can depend on the cause of your incontinence. For instance, pelvic floor exercises known as Kegels, or pelvic floor physical therapy, can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter. Behavioral therapy through lifestyle changes may be recommended, with options like urinating on a schedule, or managing the time and amount of fluids you drink. Medications may help some women, and some require surgery to fix the problem.4
There are also products available to non-invasively treat incontinence. The INNOVO Urinary Incontinence Kit—cleared by the FDA—is a pair of “smart shorts” designed to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles from the inside out. Using the kit, you perform 180 perfect Kegels in 30 minutes. A clinical study guided by the FDA had amazing results: 87% of women were defined as dry after just 12 weeks, and 90% of users would recommend the therapy to others.
What’s important to know is that treatments are available and effective.
Don’t Suffer In Silence
Having urinary incontinence can negatively impact your life, so don’t hide urine leakage from your physician. Although it’s a common problem, it’s not normal, and it can be treated.2 Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health, who can diagnose your incontinence and set you on a treatment path.