Urinary incontinence can be caused by temporary problems, such as urinary tract infection, vaginal infection or irritation, constipation, obesity, smoking, frequent, high-impact aerobics or effects of medicine. Incontinence can also be caused by other permanent conditions, such as:
- Aging (bladder holds less and urine stream may be weaker)
- Weakness of muscles that hold the bladder in place
- Weakness of bladder itself
- Weakness of the urethral sphincter muscles
- Weakness of the pelvic muscles due to pregnancy, followed by a long, difficult vaginal birth
- Overactive bladder muscles
- Blocked urethra (caused by prostate enlargement in men)
- Hormone imbalance in women
- Neurological disorders
- Prolapsed uterus
- Structural abnormalities in the urethra
- High calcium levels in the blood
Women are far more prone to the urinary incontinence problems than men for several reasons. For one thing, childbirth exerts a heavy toll on the bladder and the sphincter muscle that controls the urethra (the canal that carries urine from the bladder out of your body). Additionally, the loss of female hormones after menopause leads to a thinning and weakening of the urethral lining that is supposed to keep the bladder closed except during urination.
Diagnosis of Urinary Incontinence
The doctor will talk to you about your medical history as well as your urinary habits. A vaginal and rectal examination will also be performed. The vaginal exam can reveal anatomic causes, such as a dropped bladder (cystocele), a prolapsed uterus or structural abnormalities in the urethra. A rectal exam is necessary to assess the sphincter tone and possible fecal backup.
A battery of laboratory and diagnostic tests will also be performed. The laboratory tests include blood and urine samples. The diagnostic tests may include a cystoscopic examination, post-void residual (PVR) measurement, stress test and urodynamic testing.
The cystoscopic examination is a procedure in which a small tube with a telescope attached, is inserted into the bladder so the doctor can look for any abnormalities in the bladder and lower urinary tract. PVR measurement measures how much urine is left in the bladder after urinating by placing a small soft tube into the bladder. A stress test looks for urine loss when stress is put on the bladder muscles. Urodynamic testing involves inserting a small tube into the bladder and examining the bladder and urethral sphincter function.
If you do have urinary incontinence, the Medical Department Store can get you incontinence supplies in a timely and confidential manner.