Urinary Incontinence

February 08, 2022 | Physiotherapy, Wellness

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence (UI) is the loss of bladder control. It is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that is so sudden and strong you are not able to get to a toilet on time. 

As per the recent statistics, approximately 3.3 million Canadians have UI. If you break the statistics down further, 1 in every 4 assigned females at birth and 1 in every 9 assigned males at birth suffer from some kind of UI. A systematic review of studies shows a prevalence of UI in adult female athletes from 18-80%.

UI can lead to social consequences such as decreased self-esteem, depression and isolation. It can impede social and physical activity. It can also lead to a decline in activities of daily living, increased risk of falls and nursing home admissions, and create a heavy economic burden on patients, families and society.

Types of UI

  1. Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI): Complaint of involuntary loss of urine during physical exertion including sporting activities, or from increased abdominal pressure from sneezing or coughing. Usually results in leaking of a small volume of urine.
  2. Urgency Urinary Incontinence (UUI): Complaint of involuntary loss of urine associated with urgency. There is an inability to delay voiding and can result in a large or small amount of urine loss.
  3. Overflow Incontinence: Complaint of urinary incontinence in the symptomatic presence of an excessively (over) full bladder (no cause identified). The bladder does not empty normally and becomes very full and distended. There is constant loss of small volumes of urine (dribble). Eg. People diagnosed with Diabetes, Parkinson’s, stroke, radiation therapy to the pelvic area, or fistula.
  4. Functional Incontinence (FI): FI could be due to impaired cognition, impaired mobility or can be associated with sexual activity.
  5. Mixed Urinary Incontinence (MUI): Complaints of both stress and urgency urinary incontinence i.e. involuntary loss of urine associated with urgency and also with effort or physical exertion including sporting activities, sneezing, or coughing.

Risk Factors and Causes

  • 85% of UI occurs in people who are assigned female at birth.
  • Obesity
  • Postmenopausal (hormone changes)
  • Pregnancy and birth
  • Multiparous: Having more than one child
  • Obstetric trauma (forceps, suction, tearing)
  • Gynaecological or urinary surgery
  • Medication
  • Smoking
  • Chronic straining
  • Chronic Illness
  • Prostate Cancer or Enlarged Prostate
  • Bladder Irritants, ie. alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, chili peppers, etc.

Management of Urinary Incontinence 

Despite being so prevalent, only 1 in 12 people who may suffer from UI reach out to their health care practitioners. You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. However, if incontinence is frequent or is affecting your quality of life, it’s important to seek medical advice because urinary incontinence may: 

  • Cause you to restrict your activities and limit your social interactions
  • Negatively impact your quality of life
  • Increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to the toilet
  • Indicate a more serious underlying condition.

Treatment options range from conservative treatment, such as behavioral therapy or pelvic floor physiotherapy, to medications and surgery. 

Exercising the pelvic floor muscles is the first line of treatment for people with stress incontinence. Pelvic floor physiotherapists work with patients to identify and treat the underlying pelvic muscle dysfunction that can cease urinary incontinence. This includes exercises to strengthen the muscles, electrostimulation, or biofeedback treatments. To learn more talk to your physiotherapist or to schedule an appointment please visit us at www.curavita.com. You can also call our CURAVITA Byward Clinic at 613-237-9000 or our CURAVITA Glebe Clinic at 613-860-8600.