The Importance of Urinary Incontinence Treatment

December 01,2020 |
Urologist talking to her older patient.

There are close to 25 million adults in America who are currently suffering from some form of urinary incontinence and this number continues to rise every year. While some cases are mild and require very little treatment outside of lifestyle changes, others can cause huge disruptions to daily life. Urinary incontinence affects both men and women and can occur in people of all ages. If you experience any signs or symptoms of incontinence, it’s important to get the proper diagnosis so that you can be treated. In this article, we’ll cover some of the main reasons why treating urinary incontinence is so important.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the loss of voluntary bladder control that occurs for a number of different reasons. It’s not a disease, but rather a symptom that can present itself due to urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation, certain medications, diabetes, stroke, multiple sclerosis, enlarged prostate, childbirth, menopause, and more.

Bladder control problems vary in severity and as you get older, it becomes more common. Incontinence seems to be more prevalent in women, but it can and does affect men. Urinary incontinence can be temporary or persistent—both of which are caused by different factors.

  • Persistent Urinary Incontinence – this type of incontinence is more reflective of a condition and is caused by an underlying problem or condition along with changes to your body such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging, obstruction, neurological disorders, and more.

The signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence depend on the type that you’re suffering from. If you notice any signs or symptoms of any type of urinary incontinence, make sure you call your doctor for a proper diagnosis.


Different Types of Urinary Incontinence

There are four primary types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence, overactive bladder or urgency incontinence, overflow incontinence, and mixed urinary incontinence.

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) occurs when the pelvic floor muscles weaken and struggle to support the bladder properly. Symptoms of SUI include leaking urine while coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, lifting, or any strain that puts excessive pressure on the bladder.

Overactive Bladder (OAB)/Urgency Urinary Incontinence (UUI)

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common syndrome that leads to frequent urination and is associated with a sudden urge to void. The urge to void is so urgent and uncontrollable that you feel the need to urinate immediately. This occurs multiple times throughout the day and even in the middle of the night. If you don’t make it to the bathroom, you can experience urine leakage called urgency urinary incontinence (UUI).

Overflow Incontinence

Overflow incontinence occurs when your bladder does not completely empty while using the bathroom, which leads to overflow and leakage. Symptoms include a persistent urine dribbling or urinating multiple times a day with little urine voiding each time. It’s most common in men dealing with prostate issues.

Mixed Incontinence

You can also suffer from more than one different type of incontinence. Many people who suffer from OAB also experience SUI during physical activity. If you think you have mixed incontinence, it’s important to see your doctor to better understand the cause.


Complications of Untreated Urinary Incontinence

Since urinary incontinence is considered a symptom of an underlying condition or disease, it’s important to see your doctor for the proper diagnosis. This includes a series of questions about your lifestyle habits and the overall impact that incontinence has had on your life. You’ll need to provide a medical history and undergo a few tests such as a urinalysis or stress test.

When left untreated, urinary incontinence can lead to a number of complications that increase in severity the longer it’s left untreated. Some reasons why treating urinary incontinence is so important include:

Increasingly Serious Underlying Issues

If you have an underlying issue that is causing your urinary incontinence and you don’t seek treatment, the condition can go unnoticed and become increasingly serious. Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to bladder or kidney infections that can cause serious damage over time. Urinary incontinence can also be an indication of early signs of cancer or nerve disorder, which are both essential to catch early. Since urinary incontinence can be a sign of something serious, it should never be ignored.

More Frequent Skin Problems

Due to the dampness that incontinence causes, it can lead to higher rates of skin problems that only increase your discomfort. Untreated urinary incontinence can lead to rashes and sores along with skin infections like contact dermatitis or inflammation.

Negative Affect on Mental Health

Over time, the constant embarrassment or fear of having an accident can take a toll on your mental health. It can lead to depression and isolation from loved ones or the general public. Untreated urinary incontinence can also increase rates of anger or frustration, which can be debilitating for your long-term health.

Lower Quality of Life

In addition to having a negative effect on your mental health, untreated urinary incontinence can lower your overall quality of life. If you’re usually active and social, you may become fearful of participating in your usual activities due to leakage or accidents. If you stop exercising, you might gain weight and start making unhealthy lifestyle choices. This only increases the problem of urinary incontinence as it adds extra pressure on your urethra. Untreated incontinence can also hinder productivity at work and worsen personal relationships.

Higher Risk for Infection

If your bladder doesn’t completely empty, you’re more susceptible to dangerous bladder infections that can spread to your kidneys and blood. This is not only dangerous; it can lead to permanent damage.

Leads to a More Rapid Decline in Elderly

When older adults leave urinary incontinence untreated, it can lead to a more rapid decline on their physical and mental health. Sadly, if the decline is severe, it can result in an earlier death. Many urological conditions such as incontinence can increase the rates of falls or serious injuries as elderly adults try to rush to use the bathroom.


Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence

Luckily, there are plenty of treatment options that can help alleviate your symptoms of urinary incontinence. Your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan that works for you. You’ll start with basic lifestyle changes and move through the list until something works. It’s always better to try and find a non-invasive approach to avoid risking any complications from treatment, but there are surgical options for serious cases that don’t respond to non-invasive treatments.

Lifestyle Changes

The first treatment efforts that should be made are lifestyle changes. This will change how you live on a daily basis but can help alleviate symptoms and improve your quality of life. Some common lifestyle changes to treat urinary incontinence include fluid control, limiting certain foods and beverages that irritate the bladder, double voiding, bladder training, and pelvic floor muscles exercises.

Bladder training involves keeping a diary that includes how much you drink, what type of beverage it is, and how often you use the bathroom. This should include times for the most accurate account, and you may be asked to include instances when you experience leakage. This will help create a bladder training plan, which includes emptying your bladder at specific times throughout the day. You’ll start small and then work up to being able to prevent leaking urine for about three to four hours with less problems.

Pelvic floor exercises can help you re-strengthen your urethral sphincter and the muscles that support your bladder. This can help you improve bladder control over time and control urgency. If you have trouble with strengthening your pelvic floor on your own, your doctor may recommend electrical stimulation.


There are a few medications that are used to treat urinary incontinence. Some of them include anticholinergics, mirabegron, alpha blockers, and topical estrogen.

Medical Devices

For incontinence treatment in women, there are options for medical devices to be inserted to help with urethral control and prolapse. The main devices used are urethral inserts or a pessary.

Interventional therapies

Interventional therapies may also help treat urinary incontinence. The most common options available include bulking material injections, botulinum toxin type A (Botox), and nerve stimulators.


Surgery should only be done as a last resort as there are always risks involved with invasive procedures. Some common surgical procedures that can be performed to treat urinary incontinence include sling procedures, bladder neck suspension, prolapse surgery, and artificial urinary sphincter.

Absorbent Pads and Catheters

If all else fails, your doctor may recommend wearing absorbent pads or using intermittent self-catheterization to avoid embarrassing accidents with urinary incontinence and improve your quality of life.

If you’re suffering from urinary incontinence, make sure you see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. For ongoing support, educational resources, and incontinence products, contact the professionals at Byram Healthcare today.