– Urinary incontinence is an embarrassing problem. Most people hesitate to talk about it even with their own doctor - but it's a surprisingly frequent health issue that becomes more common with age. Women are also twice as likely to experience urinary incontinence as men. It is estimated that 25-51% of women experience at least one episode of an involuntary loss of urine annually. A common cause of urinary incontinence in women is an overactive bladder.
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Normally the nervous system signals muscles in the bladder to contract when the bladder is full. This results in the "urge" to urinate. With an overactive bladder, the bladder contracts even when it isn't full, making you feel like you need to urinate more frequently.
Overactive bladder has a number of causes. It can be triggered by medications, caffeine, alcohol, abnormalities in the bladder or urinary tract or nervous system disease. People with an overactive bladder often urinate more, getting up several times during the night to urinate and may experience sudden urges to urinate followed by incontinence or loss of bladder control. Needless to say, bladder control problems and incontinence can make you feel "out of control." If you have these symptoms, it's important to see your doctor to find out why. Once you determine the reason, you can take steps to relieve the symptoms so you can get on with your daily activities.
Bladder Control Devices and Medications for Incontinence
Oxybutynin is a medication commonly used to treat those who suffer from the symptoms of an overactive bladder. It works by relaxing the muscles in the bladder. This lessens the urge to urinate and reduces urinary frequency which may help cut down on those nighttime trips to the bathroom. It is available for women in an over-the-counter transdermal patch. Other forms of this medication require a doctor’s prescription. Research shows oxybutynin when used as directed is more effective when combined with lifestyle modifications. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine, maintaining a healthy weight, pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your bladder and scheduling regular trips to the bathroom are helpful for reducing urinary incontinence.
While products like pads and guards are not a recommended treatment for incontinence, they are necessary in some cases and can minimize skin contact with urine as a result of leakage. Protective underwear and briefs or pads and pantiliners help to protect against visible "accidents" when you're in public. Knowing you're protected against leakage helps to reduce the embarrassment and allows you to get on with your life without fear of revealing your secret.
There are ways to lessen the impact incontinence has on your life. In many cases urinary incontinence may be reversible with proper treatment. The key is to talk to your doctor. He or she can discuss the various treatment and management options available to you.
This summary is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should read product labels. In addition, if you are taking medications, herbs, or other supplements you should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medication as they may interact with other medications, herbs, and nutritional products. If you have a medical condition, including if you are pregnant or nursing, you should speak to your physician before taking these products. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.