Urinary incontinence (UI) consists in involuntary leakage of urine and it is intimately associated with weakened pelvic floor muscles.
There are several types of UI with the most common being the so-called stress urinary incontinence (SUI), which consists in urine leakage when performing any type of physical activity even if this activity does not call for a great effort (for example, coughing, sneezing or laughing).
Although urinary incontinence is not an illness, those who endure it can suffer a low quality of life as this deficiency influences many aspects of our daily life. From a mere hygienic problem it can become a real social and psychological burden.
Urinary incontinence affects both men and women, but it is more common in the latter. It is estimated that over 35% of women who practice high-impact sports (aerobics, jogging) endure urinary incontinence. (Nygaard I).
In the case of pregnant women, the percentage is even higher as over 40% endure urinary incontinence (Dominique Gross, Jean Sengler). The data are similar for those women who have already given birth, where urinary incontinence can turn into a chronic problem
There are different types of urinary incontinence as follows:
• Stress urinary incontinence (SUI): the leakage of urine occurs as the result of a physical activity. This is the consequence of weakened pelvic floor muscles which have a direct influence on the bladder. Laughing, sneezing, coughing, practicing sports, carrying heavy objects and even standing up or bending down can cause involuntary leakage of urine. It is the most common type of UI, representing most cases.
• Urge urinary incontinence (overactive bladder): what characterizes this type of UI, is the desire or uncontrollable need to urinate accompanied by involuntary leakage of urine. It often increases daytime and nighttime urinations as well as the sensation of having incomplete urinations.
• Mixed urinary incontinence: as its name indicates, this type of UI is the combination of different sorts of incontinence. The most frequent one is the combination of stress and urge urinary incontinence.
• Temporary urinary incontinence: this type of incontinence is an occasional problem and can be caused by multiple factors such as: intake of certain medicine, urinary infections, severe constipation, etc. In general terms, once the cause has been treated, the incontinence also disappears.
• Overflow urinary incontinence: in this type of incontinence, the “overflow”, that is to say, the leakage of urine is caused because the bladder does not entirely get empty, therefore it gets full easier and quicker. Overflow urinary incontinence is much more frequent in men than in women and the people who undergo it experiment a permanent sensation of having a full bladder and an incomplete emptiness.
• Functional urinary incontinence: the leakage of urine is caused due to the impossibility to get to the toilet on time (or substitute of it as a potty) as a consequence of a physical or mental disability. Many physicians do not consider functional urinary incontinence as a real type of incontinence as it is caused by the existence of external factors as architectural barriers.
Many women, especially those of advanced age, resign themselves to the appearance of urinary incontinence and use sanitary towels that absorb the leakage of urine. It is essential for these women to know that UI can be treated, and in some cases, even be totally eliminated.