Urinary Incontinence


Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control and ranges from occasional urine leakage to the complete inability to control urination. It affects both men and women, although women are twice as likely to experience it compared to men.


Types of Urinary Incontinence

The two most common types of urinary incontinence are:


Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when there is an unexpected leakage of urine caused by pressure or sudden muscle contractions on the bladder. Certain activities can put stress on the sphincter muscle that holds in urine in the bladder; these include:


  • Exercising
  • Coughing
  • Laughing
  • Sneezing


Stress incontinence is the most common bladder control problem in young and middle-aged women, with the condition often due to an inherent weakness of the pelvic floor muscles, or an effect from the stress of childbirth. Stress incontinence can also become a problem around menopause.


Urge Incontinence

An individual who experiences a sudden and strong urge to urinate will typically have urge incontinence. Also known as an overactive bladder, the person is unable to hold back the urine long enough to reach a bathroom. It is more common at night and may lead to getting up several times through the night to urinate.


Causes of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence may be a temporary problem caused by the following:


  • A vaginal or urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Certain medications
  • Constipation
  • Menopause
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Nerve damage
  • Tumours in the urinary tract
  • Side-effects of a hysterectomy
  • Consumption of excessive diuretics such as caffeine, vitamin C and chocolate


Certain risk factors can increase an individual’s chance of developing urinary incontinence. These include:


  • Body weight – being overweight increases the pressure put on the bladder
  • Smoking- smoking increases the risk of developing many medical conditions
  • Gender – women are more likely to develop stress incontinence due to the structure of the urinary tract and reproductive organs
  • Age – menopause and ageing can both change the strength of the muscles and reduce the capacity of the bladder, increasing the likelihood of incontinence


Diagnosing Urinary Incontinence

As the primary symptom of urinary incontinence is the involuntary release of urine, it is a condition fairly easy to diagnose.

Your doctor will take a full medical history and discuss your symptoms. They may ask about your daily habits, including your typical diet and any medication or supplements that you take. They may carry out a stress test which involves you sitting up and coughing when asked to do so. You will be required to do this with a full bladder. Whilst lying down, your doctor will gently check your pelvic organs to test the strength of your muscles.

Your doctor may also perform a rectal exam where they will insert a lubricated finger to feel inside your rectum. This will enable them to see if there is a blockage that could be causing the problem.


Depending on your symptoms and medical history, they may order additional tests, including:


  • A cystoscopy
  • Collecting a sample of urine for analysis (urinalysis)
  • Blood tests
  • Measuring the amount of urine that you release when urinating, the amount left over in your bladder and the pressure in your bladder


Treating Urinary Incontinence

The recommended treatment plan will depend on the type of incontinence you are experiencing. You may be encouraged to do certain exercises such as pelvic floor exercises or bladder training which can help to improve your bladder control.


If your incontinence cannot be cured, your doctor will recommend certain steps to help manage your condition. These include:


  • Taking scheduled bathroom breaks
  • Adjusting your diet or fluid intake
  • Using absorbent undergarments or pads


Medication is often used to treat urinary incontinence, in particular urge incontinence. These medications can help calm an overactive bladder and help suppress the urge to suddenly urinate.


Surgical Procedures

When conservative methods of treatment have failed, surgical procedures may be recommended.


For stress incontinence, the two most common procedures are the sling procedure and the bladder neck suspension.
Sacral nerve stimulation is sometimes used to treat overactive bladder and involves a surgical procedure that implants a small device below the skin of the buttock. The device periodically generates a mild electrical stimulation to the sacral nerves which results in increased tension in the bladder, sphincter and pelvic floor muscles.


Preventing Urinary Incontinence

You cannot prevent all types of urinary incontinence as it often caused by an underlying condition. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it. First and foremost, a healthy lifestyle is key. You should ensure you:


  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Practice pelvic floor muscles
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a balanced diet which consists of plenty of fibre to prevent constipation
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake as these irritate the bladder
  • Drink no more than 64 ounces of liquid a day
  • Seek treatment for urinary tract infections, constipation and other conditions that can trigger incontinence



For many people, urinary incontinence can be an embarrassing condition which often prevents them from seeking help. However, it is important that you speak to your doctor as they can help deal with the cause of your incontinence and find a solution. This will enable you to lead a full and active life without the worry of leakage.


Need Help?

Our Consultant Gynaecologists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating individuals who are currently experiencing urinary incontinence, with our medical team and nursing staff offering support in a sensitive and caring manner at all times.


To make an appointment to see a Consultant Gynaecologist, please contact the reservations team on 01233 364 036 or email ashford.info@onehealthcare.co.uk 


One Ashford Hospital is located in Kent and is ideal for private, insured and NHS patients located in Ashford, Dover, Canterbury, Folkestone, Maidstone and all nearby areas.


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