Does your bladder leak when you laugh, cough or sneeze? You likely have urinary incontinence, or weakened or loss of bladder control. While urinary incontinence is rarely an emergency situation, it can keep you from being social and enjoying your daily activities. Know that you can avoid the embarrassment of a bladder accident by understanding treatment options available to you.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence?
We often think that urinary incontinence only happens to older people, and we associate loss of bladder control as a normal part of aging. But it doesn’t have to be, especially if it gets in the way of keeping an active and socially engaged lifestyle.
Weakening pelvic muscles that usually come with old age do contribute to loss of bladder control, but they are by no means the only reason for urine leakage. There are several types of urinary incontinence, with some people experiencing more than one type.
Stress incontinence – you experience leakage when pressure is exerted on your bladder, as it usually happens when you sneeze, laugh, cough, exercise or lift something heavy. Stress incontinence is a common complaint among women who feel the need for vaginal tightening due to multiple childbirths.
Urge incontinence – you experience a sudden, intense urge to urinate, feel the urge often, and lose control over your bladder as often. Urge incontinence may be a symptom of a neurologic disorder or diabetes.
Overflow incontinence – your bladder doesn’t completely empty so you experience constant dribbling of urine.
Functional incontinence – it’s not the loss of bladder control that makes you wet your clothes; it’s your inability to get to the toilet in time due to arthritis or some other physical or mental impairment.
Treatment Options for Incontinence
Your treatment program depends on the type of incontinence you have. Mild incontinence may be relieved by at-home remedies or non-invasive treatments, while incontinence with an underlying medical condition may have to be treated more aggressively to address the root cause of incontinence.
If you have mild stress incontinence, which can be due to vaginal laxity arising from several vaginal deliveries, Kegel exercises that will strengthen your pelvic floor muscles might help.
Identify your pelvic floor muscles by stopping urination midstream; whatever muscles you use are the pelvic floor muscles you need to exercise. Tighten these muscles, hold for five seconds, then relax for five seconds. Work up to five times in a row, for up to 10 seconds per contraction. But don’t do your Kegels while actually urinating as this could lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder.
Vaginal tightening without surgery
An alternative treatment to address mild incontinence is to use radio frequency RF energy like the one used in Viveve system originally as a vaginal laxity treatment. Viveve in Singapore is a non-surgical vaginal tightening procedure performed by a trained physician in a medical aesthetic clinic and doesn’t require anesthesia or analgesics.
The goal is to stimulate the body’s collagen formation process by delivering pulses of heat to the vaginal tissues. The resulting tightening of the vaginal walls also causes the urethral opening – which is situated between the clitoris and vagina – to be less likely to open under stress.
The bladder, as a muscle, can also be retrained to empty at intervals that are farther apart. Try to hold your urge until it passes – perhaps by doing some Kegels or relaxation techniques like deep breathing. Gradually increase the amount of time until your bathroom breaks are three to four hours apart. Bladder retraining usually takes six to 12 weeks before you see the effects, while patients in laser clinics in Singapore who undergo the Viveve treatment may have to wait up to 30 days for the effects to be noticeable.
It would also help to avoid drinks that are known diuretics – coffee, sodas, tea – as they make you urinate more frequently. If bladder retraining doesn’t work, check with your doctor as you might need medication (tolterodine, trospium, mirabegron) or surgery (vaginal tape, urethral sling, retropubic suspension) to address your incontinence.