There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to ‘hold it,’ especially when you’re in social situations where rushing to the bathroom can be awkward for you. This loss of bladder control, or urinary incontinence, is more than inconvenient; it can be embarrassing, as you’ll never know when and where you’ll have an ‘accident.’
Urinary incontinence happens to both men and women, but the condition is more common in (older) women who experience incontinence in some form or another.
What Really Causes Urinary Incontinence?
By itself, urinary incontinence is not a medical condition but a symptom of an underlying medical condition or physical problem, or a result of everyday habits. For example, urinary tract infection, which can irritate the bladder, can lead to strong urges to urinate.
One of the physical reasons why you may have incontinence is being overweight. The ‘spare tire’ around your midsection can cause fatty issues to put pressure on your bladder more often than normal.
Everyday habits like drinking alcohol, coffee or soft drinks can lead to an overactive bladder, which is a type of urge incontinence. This is because caffeinated and carbonated drinks act as diuretics, or substances that stimulate production of urine. Excess intake of vitamin B or C can also lead to frequent urination as the body rids of vitamins that are more than what it needs.
Stress Incontinence vs. Urge Incontinence
The inability to control urination is the main symptom of incontinence. If there is an involuntary release of urine when you laugh, cough, jog or lift something heavy, then you might have stress incontinence, a common problem among younger women.
Stress incontinence is typically caused by the weakening of the muscles and tissues around the opening of the bladder. The weakening of these muscles, in turn, may be caused by sports injury, weight gain, pregnancies or vaginal childbirths. Because these muscles couldn’t stay closed when there’s pressure against the bladder, small leaks of urine can happen when certain reflexes are involved (such as sneezing).
Urge incontinence, on the other hand, is caused by spasms of the bladder muscles, making the urge to pee sudden and overwhelming. Stroke, infection or inflammation of the bladder may damage nerves or muscles, which then results to spasms.
The main symptom of urge incontinence is the overwhelming need to pee (even when the bladder has just been emptied). This can be very embarrassing because with urge incontinence, you may leak large amounts of urine before you get to the bathroom in time.
What are the Treatment Options for Incontinence?
The course of treatment for urinary incontinence depends on the type of incontinence the person suffers from. If it’s an overactive bladder that’s causing incontinence, some behavioural training may be required to train the bladder to void at set times. The patient may be asked to delay urination several minutes after the urge comes, and hold it until the urge can no longer be contained.
Timed urination or scheduled toilet trips are all about voiding when it’s time instead of when it’s ‘time to go.’ For those who often go back to the toilet even when they have just finished, they may need to practice double voiding, or waiting for a few minutes after the first voiding, and then void again if there’s still anything left.
If the incontinence is caused by your fluid intake or your diet, then you may have to cut back consumption of alcohol, caffeine and other diuretics.
Non-Surgical Vaginal Treatment for Urinary Incontinence
Women who have given a number of vaginal childbirths are prone to getting stress incontinence. The feeling of looseness doesn’t just affect their levels of sexual satisfaction, but more practical and every day matters, too, like urination. Kegel exercises are usually recommended for this type of incontinence, but for those who wish to address two problems with one treatment, a non-surgical vaginal tightening procedure performed in an aesthetic laser clinic might help.
The Singapore Viveve Treatment involves vaginal tightening without surgery using patented radiofrequency (RF) energy to trigger the body’s own collagen-making process. This RF energy is applied using a treatment tip about the size of the thumb that is then rotated around the vaginal opening, delivering pulses of RF energy to the underlying tissues where collagen fibers are found.
The treatment tip simultaneously cools the vaginal surface, leaving no injury and requiring no downtime. After the treatment, collagen restoration begins, with the changes happening on the cellular level with no outward signs of change to the vaginal tissue.
In laser clinics in Singapore, Viveve is primarily a vaginal laxity treatment, and it’s also recommended for use to improve mild urinary incontinence.
Of course, if the cause is an underlying medical condition, that condition needs to be treated for the incontinence to resolve. There are medications, electrical stimulation, medical devices and even surgery to make illness-related incontinence, such as after a prostate cancer operation, more manageable.