Approximately 13 million Americans are incontinent. Of those, 85% are women.
Many women, on the cusp of menopause, experience perhaps the most embarrassing symptom of all 34 menopausal symptoms: urinary incontinence. They tend to notice the lack of bladder control especially when sneezing or laughing.
As a woman approaches menopause, her hormone production begins to decrease, which leads to a multitude of physical changes, including incontinence. To understand how to treat this symptom, it's best to first understand exactly what it is, what causes it, and finally, what treatment options are available. Read below to learn all about incontinence.
More than 40% of menopausal women suffer from incontinence, and roughly the same amount of postmenopausal women cope with the same ailment.
Urinary incontinence is the inability to control one's bladder. The severity can vary from woman to woman. Some women may experience occasional trickles of urine when bursting into laughter or while having a sneezing episode. Others might notice large amounts of and more frequent uncontrolled urine flows that don't seem to be stimulated by laughter or a body-shaking sneeze.
Although many women experience incontinence as they approach menopause it isn't an inevitable aspect of getting older. But understanding this menopausal symptom can help to prevent or treat it. A good place to begin is with the different types of incontinence, of which there are three.
Types of incontinence
There are three main types of incontinence: stress incontinence, urge incontinence, and overflow incontinence. These types of incontinence are described in detail below.
Pressure on bladder
Stress incontinence is the most prominent type of incontinence experienced by women, especially women who are approaching menopause or who are post-menopausal. Women with stress incontinence involuntarily leak urine while coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising, or lifting something. The reason these activities can cause incontinence is because they apply sudden pressure to the bladder walls, which squeezes the bladder and causes urine to leak out. The reason this occurs as women get older is because the pelvic muscles often grow weaker, which weakens the walls between the bladder and vagina.
Problems caused by
Urge incontinence is the sudden, intense, and frequent urge to urinate, immediately followed by an uncontrollable loss of urine. The bladder contracts and may give a warning of only a few seconds or a minute to make it to the restroom. Urge incontinence strikes especially while sleeping, drinking, or while listening to running water. Urge incontinence goes by other names as well: spastic bladder, overactive bladder, or reflex incontinence. This type of incontinence, characterized by the need to urinate more than seven times a day or more than twice each night, is the most common type of incontinence in elderly people.
Bladder doesn't empty
completely, leading to
frequent urination or
Overflow incontinence is characterized by frequent or constant dribbling urine. Those with overflow incontinence are unable to completely empty the bladder, which fills up and then overflows, causing leakage. Sufferers of overflow incontinence often have the sensation of never fully emptying their bladder, and when they urinate, they produce only a weak stream of urine. This type of incontinence is common with people who have damaged bladders or blocked urethras. It can also be a result of nerve damage from diabetes.
As already mentioned above, the symptoms of incontinence include: urine leaks during a sneeze, laugh, or cough; urine leaks when lifting or running; not enough time to reach a toilet once the urge to urinate is felt; urine continues to dribble after urinating; urine leakage follows an intense desire to empty the bladder; and continual leakage of urine.
Continue reading to learn the common causes of incontinence during menopause to better know how to treat it.
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Causes of Incontinence
Because stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence for women embarking on menopause and women who are postmenopausal, it's appropriate to begin there. This type of incontinence in women is almost always caused by hormonal imbalance, specifically decreased levels of estrogen.
Estrogen helps to keep a woman's muscles strong, even the muscles that enable her to maintain control of her bladder. Estrogen also contributes to the health of the urinary tract lining. When estrogen levels begin to drop, as they do as women approach menopause, the muscles weaken and the bladder is more difficult to control.
Other causes of incontinence
Although decreased estrogen levels primarily cause incontinence in women going through menopause, there are additional causes of incontinence, but they tend to be more closely aligned with urge or overflow incontinence. The other causes are:
Continue reading to learn more about the treatment options available for incontinence.
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Treatments for Incontinence
Fortunately for women who suffer from incontinence, there are several treatment options to make this pesky menopausal symptom a thing of the past. It's best to begin with the least obtrusive treatment (lifestyle changes), then move onto additional measures (alternative medicines and finally medications or surgery) if incontinence resumes.
A good way for a menopausal woman to alleviate incontinence is to strengthen her pelvic floor muscles, which control the bladder. There are several exercise techniques to accomplish this. To begin, lie on the floor and squeeze or pull in the pelvic muscles. Keep them tight for a count of three. Release; rest for a few seconds. Repeat. It would also be helpful if a woman experiencing incontinence cuts out caffeine and tobacco from her life. These substances can lead to worsened incontinence.
The best way to combat incontinence would be by mixing lifestyle changes and alternative medicines. While a woman works to strengthen her pelvic floor muscles, she can also take certain herbs that help to stimulate natural production of hormones, particularly estrogen.
For more prolonged or drastic cases of incontinence, it may be necessary to seek the advice of a healthcare professional and possibly seek surgical or pharmaceutical options, though these carry the most risk of side effects.
Most experts recommend that women who suffer from incontinence and wish to treat it begin with lifestyle changes, then move onto alternative medicines (ideally combining the two) and finally, look to medications or surgery if nothing else seems to work. Click on the following link to learn specific treatments for incontinence in these three categories.
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