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When to Talk to Your Doctor About Bladder Control

Urinary incontinence (UI) is a loss of bladder control. Your whole bladder may empty, or you may have small leaks. UI is a common problem, and women are twice as likely as men to suffer from bladder control issues. UI can be a temporary or a chronic problem but it can often be cured, or controlled.

The four main types of UI

Stress incontinence occurs when urine leaks as pressure (or stress) is put on the bladder. This could happen during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects. It could be caused by damage to or weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and urethra, as sometimes happens during or after pregnancy.
Urge incontinence happens when abnormal contractions of bladder muscles cause people to have a sudden need to urinate, and they aren’t able to hold their urine long enough to get to the bathroom. Causes include neurological conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Diabetes, alcohol and some diuretic medications can also cause it.
Overflow incontinence is when small amounts of urine leak from a bladder that is always full. A man can have trouble emptying his bladder if an enlarged prostate is blocking the urethra.
Functional incontinence occurs in many older people who have normal bladder control, but can’t get to the bathroom because of arthritis or other disorders that make it hard to move quickly.

Treatment options

Your doctor may offer a range of treatments depending on the type and severity of the UI. Mild cases may be helped with simple lifestyle changes, like avoiding caffeinated drinks or adjusting your diet, bladder training, and exercises that strengthen your pelvic muscles. Treatments for more serious bladder control issues may include medication or nerve stimulation.

Talk to your doctor

You may feel embarrassed to discuss UI with your doctor. But it’s a common problem: millions of adults in the U.S. have bladder control issues. Your doctor has likely discussed it many times with other patients. UI might be a symptom of a more serious condition. If you see blood in your urine, are prone to urinary tract infections, or if bladder control problems are affecting your quality of life, you should see your doctor.