Legacy Women's Health

Female Urinary Incontinence

Get Help for Female Urinary Incontinence

Female urinary incontinence is involuntary loss of bladder control that results in leaking urine. It can negatively affect a woman’s overall health and quality of life. Our San Antonio gynecologists encourage women to seek help if they are experiencing this common medical condition.

Urinary incontinence can occur at any age, but it is most common in women older than 50. The severity of urinary incontinence can vary greatly, ranging from a few drops of leaking urine to full wetting. It can be a temporary condition, but without treatment, it may continue throughout a woman’s life.

Although common with aging, urinary incontinence is not inevitable. Lifestyle changes and treatments can improve and even cure urinary incontinence.

Causes of female urinary incontinence

Life events, such as aging, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, are common causes of incontinence. Other causes include family history, excessive weight, nerve damage, surgery and pelvic radiation.

Urinary incontinence is a side effect of some medications, such as diuretics. Bladder infections also can cause incontinence. In these cases, the incontinence should resolve once medications are stopped or the infection is treated.

Diagnosing urinary incontinence

There are several common symptoms of female urinary incontinence.

  • Urine leaking with coughing, laughing or sneezing
  • Leaking urine with movement or exercise
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Frequent need to urinate (more than eight times a day or two times at night)
  • Not getting to the restroom in time

If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms of female urinary incontinence, contact our San Antonio gynecologists for evaluation. Our team will take your medical history and perform a physical examination. Additional tests may be necessary, such as urine tests, a bladder stress test, urodynamics, ultrasound and cystoscopy.

Types of urinary incontinence

The most common types of female urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress urinary incontinence is urine leaking with any activity that puts pressure on the bladder. This includes coughing, laughing, sneezing or physical activity.

Urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder, is the need to urinate that sometimes cannot be stopped. It also can refer to a sudden, urgent need to urinate.

It is also possible to have “mixed incontinence,” in which a woman experiences both stress incontinence and urge incontinence or other types of incontinence, to varying degrees.

Treating leaking urine

Women can make specific changes that may reduce urine leakage.

  • Lose weight. Additional weight puts extra pressure on the bladder and the muscles.
  • Eliminate food and drinks that irritate the bladder, including citrus, alcohol, carbonation, caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking has been shown to exacerbate incontinence.
  • Treat constipation. Straining for bowel movements puts pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, which can weaken them.

These lifestyle changes may be recommended in conjunction with medical treatment. Potential treatments for urinary incontinence include behavioral therapies, medication, in-office procedures and outpatient surgery. The course of action is determined by the patient’s type and severity of incontinence, along with her medical history.

  • Behavioral therapies include bladder training and a urine voiding program. Both therapies focus on bathroom schedules.
  • Physical therapy programs, such as Kegel exercises and vaginal weight training, may be used to improve pelvic floor muscle tone.
  • Medication that reduces bladder muscle spasms while increasing bladder volume is available to treat urge incontinence.

Several in-office procedures can also treat female urinary incontinence. A patient can be fitted for a pessary, a small device that is inserted into the vagina to provide additional support to the bladder and urethra. Botox injections in the bladder, nerve stimulation and biofeedback may also be treatment options.

There also are surgical options for treating urinary incontinence, including sling procedures and bladder suspension. The type and severity of incontinence determine the need for surgery.

Women don’t have to live with urinary incontinence. If you are experiencing symptoms of leaking urine, our San Antonio gynecologists want to help determine the best course of treatment for you. Contact Legacy Women’s Health for an appointment with our San Antonio OBGYNs.