Know the Real Solutions for Bladder Leaks

Whether a leak is in your plumbing, a tire or a gas line, a leak is usually bad.

Another leak that’s bad is a bladder leak. This type of leak can happen if you have urinary incontinence — a condition that can result in urine leaks, frequent or sudden need to urinate or lack of bladder control. 

Urinary incontinence (UI) can happen to women and men. About 13 million Americans are incontinent. It’s more common in women. Studies have found that 3% to 17% of women are moderately to severely bothered by UI. Severe incontinence becomes more common for women age 70 through 80.

Along with aging, urinary incontinence can be caused by:

  • Vaginal childbirth, which can weaken the muscles that control your bladder.
  • Diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS), which can damage the nerves that control your bladder.
  • Urinary tract diseases, strokes, surgeries and treatments for pelvic cancers.

Different Types of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence can present in a variety of ways:

Stress incontinence is common in women, especially if you’ve given birth vaginally. Symptoms include:

  • Leaking urine when you do an activity that puts sudden pressure on your bladder, such as a cough, sneeze, laugh or exercising.

Urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder or spastic bladder, is common in older women and men. This is the most common type of UI for men. Symptoms include: 

  • Feeling a sudden need to urinate.
  • Feeling a frequent need to urinate (more than seven times a day or two times a night).
  • Weak bladder control and urine leaking.

Overflow incontinence happens when your bladder doesn’t empty completely. Symptoms include:

  • Dribbling urine.
  • Needing to urinate often.

Functional incontinence happens when a person lacks the mental or physical ability to get to the bathroom in time. It’s most common among those who are elderly, have severe arthritis or suffer from a condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

Treatments for Urinary Incontinence

A variety of treatments are available to bring relief to patients with urinary incontinence. Discuss your options with your health care provider. For some, lifestyle changes may help:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stay regular with your bowel habits.
  • Limit your fluid intake after dinner.
  • Limit caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, artificial sweeteners and alcoholic drinks. They can be bladder irritants.
  • Don’t smoke
  • Train yourself to hold your bladder longer.
  • Strengthen your pelvic floor. This is the area in women between the vagina and anus. In men it’s the area between the scrotum and anus. Daily Kegel exercises can help.  

If you continue to have incontinence issues, your health care provider can recommend additional options. Treatments vary depending on the cause of your urinary incontinence. Treatments may include:

  • Physical therapy. Your health care provider can refer you to a therapist who will guide you through therapy.
  • Medications. Your provider can discuss options. Medications are most commonly prescribed for urge incontinence.
  • Injections. A substance is injected into the urethra. It thickens its walls so it seals more tightly to stop urine leaks.
  • InterStim® therapy. Your provider implants a small stop-watch-size device under the skin of your hip. The device sends mild electrical pulses to the sacral nerve, which controls the muscles of your bladder.
  • Urethral sling. A health care provider may recommend this treatment for the most common form of women’s urinary incontinence — stress incontinence. It may be suggested when other approaches have proven unsuccessful.

    A sling procedure can be done inpatient or outpatient, depending on which approach that will work best for the patient. Through one or more small abdominal and/or vaginal incisions, a sling, usually made of a synthetic material, is placed around the urethra to lift it back into its normal position. By lifting the urethra, its ability to retain urine normally improves.

    After the surgery, the patient usually returns home after two to three days and then spends two to four weeks reaching full recovery.

Your health care provider can discuss which treatment option might be best for you. The good news is, you don’t have to live with a problematic bladder leak.

If you found this information helpful, visit the Aurora Facebook page for more health and wellness news. And like us, too! 

Meet the Author

Amr El Haraki, MD, practices Obstetrics and Gynecology at Aurora Bay Area Health Center in Marinette, WI 

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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