What Causes Urinary Incontinence in Women?
When it comes to urinary incontinence in women, statistics suggest that it’s very common, with approximately 17% of women over the age of 18 suffering from an overactive bladder. And the numbers only grow worse with age, with one out of every three women over the age of 45 and one out of every two women over 65 reporting problems with stress urinary incontinence.
The point behind all of these numbers is to underscore the magnitude of the problem, which may provide some comfort knowing you’re not alone. As a board-certified urologist, Robert J. Cornell, MD, PA, understands these statistics all too well and helps women in the Houston area find relief from the embarrassment and limitations that urinary incontinence can place on their lives.
To better arm yourself in the fight against urinary incontinence, here’s what you need to know about the underlying causes of the condition.
Breaking down urinary incontinence
There are several types of bladder control issues that fall under under incontinence, with stress incontinence leading the charge. This type of incontinence is induced by stress or pressure on your urinary tract, which leads to involuntary leakage. For example, a simple cough or sneeze can lead to a leakage because your muscles are unable to hold the urine back.
The second most common form of incontinence is urge incontinence, a condition in which you find yourself with a sudden urge to urinate, often many times a day, and you’re unable to get to the bathroom quickly enough.
Another form of urinary incontinence is a combination of the first two, giving it the name of mixed incontinence.
Women far outpace men when it comes to urinary incontinence, by more than two to one, largely due to anatomic and metabolic concerns. Let’s start with the physical aspect of urinary incontinence. A women’s urinary system shares space with her reproductive organs, and these close quarters create chain reactions that can lead to bladder control issues.
To start, pregnancy can create issues by simply adding pressure to your bladder and urethra as your baby begins to develop inside your uterus, which is located right above your urinary tract. As your baby grows, your pelvic floor muscles can also begin to weaken; and since this muscle group is responsible for keeping your urinary and reproductive organs in place, the loss of support can lead to stress incontinence.
Childbirth also weakens your pelvic floor, which forces the muscles in your urinary tract to work harder to control the flow of urine, often unsuccessfully.
Lastly, a woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s, which means that any damage to this area can have a much wider impact on this short duct.
Your hormones also play a large role when it comes to urinary incontinence because of their regulation of your reproductive health. The estrogen produced by your ovaries oversees a number of things, including the health of the muscles and tissues in your pelvic region. As you journey through perimenopause and menopause, your estrogen levels drop dramatically, which leads to a loss of elasticity in your vaginal walls. As well, the lining of your urethra can thin and the muscles that make up your pelvic floor can weaken.
Taken all together, the loss of muscle and tissue strength paves the way for bladder control issues.
There are other problems that lead to urinary incontinence in women, such as neurological issues, but the physical and metabolic aspects are the main culprits behind the loss of bladder control.
Now that we’ve discussed why women are more likely to suffer from urinary incontinence, the good news is that we offer a number of effective treatments to help you regain control of your bladder, and your life. From behavioral training and exercises to medications and implants, we can take many approaches to your problem, often in combination, to help put an end to this serious quality-of-life issue.
If you’d like to learn more about your treatment options, please give us a call so we can get started on a comprehensive evaluation. You can also use our easy online booking tool to schedule an appointment.