Urinary Incontinence in Women
Females Versus Males
Although females and males have different genitalia, there is no difference in the urinary tract system. Males have an external and longer urethra for outflow compared to women’s internal and short urethras. Also, women are equipped with a reproductive system for procreation, barring abnormalities. The effects of pregnancy and childbirth often result in urinary incontinence as women age. Menstruation and menopause are additional components that may adversely affect a woman’s ability to manage her urine elimination. Many women experience a form of urinary incontinence with aging whether they bore children or not.
In a female body the lower urinary tract and the reproductive systems are in close proximity. Both function independently. Specific here is the short, internal urethra with the uterus situated above the bladder. The presence of the reproductive system alone engenders emotional components, a major factor in women’s health. To addressing emotional concerns are beyond the scope of this article and is mentioned as a factor contributing to urinary incontinence. Understanding the varying degrees of urinary incontinence as it relates to the female body is purpose for this article.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
The definition of types of urinary incontinence means a name is given for symptoms reported. A short review of the types is presented for reference.
- A. Stress Incontinence – small amounts of urine leak when pressure is placed on the bladder.
- B. Urge Incontinence – a sudden, strong and urgent impulse to urinate accompanied by loss of urine.
- C. Overflow Incontinence – an involuntary flow or dribble of urine due to pressure on the bladder or another dysfunction in the urinary tract system.
- D. Functional Incontinence – occurs due to physical or mental impairment in which the person is unaware of the need to urinate.
- E. Mixed Incontinence – A combination of types may be experienced with multiple causes.
Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Women
A failure in the urinary system to perform correctly and efficiently frequently results in urinary incontinence. Breakdowns occur due to either bladder or nerve dysfunction in the lower urinary tract system. There may be muscle weakness or damage, impairment in nerve intervention, unusual bladder conditions, such as urinary tract infections, obstructions or other causes can manifest a urinary incontinence situation.
Other causes include abnormal bladder defects, constipation, hysterectomy, aging, overweight, vigorous exercise, emotional stress, medications, mobility dysfunction, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and other debilitating neurological disease. Other unknown causes are not be excluded.
Weak Pelvic Floor Muscles – The weight of a developing baby applies constant pressure on the bladder and the act of childbirth may impair the integrity of the pelvic floor. Over time these conditions stretch and weaken pelvic floor muscles. Multiple pregnancies impose repeated weight on pelvic floor muscles.
Due to strain and efforts to expel hard feces, constipation presents another condition that may weaken the strength of pelvic floor muscles. Overweight, aging, and certain vigorous exercises also press on pelvic floor muscles. These conditions over a lifetime may produce symptoms of Stress Incontinence (SI). If small amounts of urine leak with coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects or other abdominal pressure applied to the bladder it is known as stress incontinence (SI).
Nerve Impairment – Nerve signals from the brain to the bladder inappropriately stimulate bladder muscles to contract or tighten. If this occurs, the urge to void is felt when the bladder is not full. An OAB (overactive bladder) condition is an example of urge incontinence (UI). Urgency and/or frequency may be symptoms experienced with an overactive bladder. Nerve impairment may affect other areas in the bladder as well to interrupt the normal process of voiding and cause urinary incontinence regardless of location or severity.
Bladder Mucsle Weakness – Other conditions involve bladder and or urethral muscles responsible for initiating the action of micturition. Microorganisms cause urinary tract infections. These irritants may affect any area in the urinary tract system. Sphincter, urethral wall and bladder muscles are main areas influenced. Obstructions or other causes can create abnormal or interrupted urine outflow due to their effects on bladder muscles. Urge Incontinence (UI) may be a result.
Indirect Causes for Urinary Incontinence in Women
A wide variety of possible causes for urinary incontinence exist in women. Due to low estrogen levels during the menopausal phase, the incidence of urinary tract infections may increase in elder women. Emotional stress, menstruation, prescription medications, such as diuretics, food stimulants and numerous other conditions or illnesses can present conditions responsible for women developing urinary incontinence.
Sometimes women have several causes for urinary incontinence existing simultaneously. The presence os several symptoms at the same time indicate more than one type of urinary incontinence exists. Due to women’s short, internal urethras, they are prone to develop urinary tract infections more often than men. Any condition preventing adequate excretion of urine, such as bladder infections are serious ailments. Consultation with trained medical professionals is advised.
The ailments described above may require intervention from medical professionals. Medical resources are available from your health care professional for assessments, evaluation, diagnosis, consultations, clinical reports and more.
Empowerment is Happiness
A woman living with urinary incontinence has a concern that is present every day. The distress of unknown and random occurrences of symptoms, often determines her activities for the day. Some women may feel confounded and discouraged regarding their situation. How to manage such a condition can feel overpowering and demeaning. Information provided here is intended to be a beginning, a starting point toward gaining an active life again and independence from the stress related to management of urinary incontinence.
Because our bodies change does not mean we are obligated to live with every consequence. Some we can change or modify. We must believe; we can affect a resolution for change, for improvement, for total and perhaps complete healing. We are the ones who must affect the unknown. Growth and confidence is born from our actions.
Happiness is us feeling valued, us feeling empowered to be able to perform the activities we enjoy, for us to enjoy our lives again, for our families and ourselves. Urinary incontinence need not be a life sentence of misery and woe. We can overcome it and feel the joys of life again.
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