When everything works correctly, the brain and the bladder are the ones that control urinary function. The bladder is the one that is in charge of storing the urine until it is ready to empty it.
Why do I get up to urinate several times at night?
Normal continence depends on the functioning of the nerves and muscles of the bladder (where urine is stored) and the urethra, which coordinate the action together.
When this does not work correctly is when we talk about urinary incontinencea symptom of many conditions that results in loss of bladder control, which can range from small leaks when we laugh or cough to a complete inability to control the bladder.
And we’re not just talking about a medical problem. The repercussions on emotional, psychological and social life can become limiting, to the point that people stop carrying out their daily activities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is one of the pathologies that most affects people’s quality of life.
Who does urinary incontinence affect?
Although it is more common in older people and women and we tend to think that it is just part of aging, it is not an intrinsic and unique problem of this sector of the population.
The data does show us that women are at greater risk of urinary incontinence than men because they have a shorter urethra, therefore any weakness or damage to the urethra is more likely to cause urinary incontinence.
This is because there is less muscle that keeps urine in the bladder until it is ready to urinate. In Spain, it is estimated that this pathological condition, which affects people of both sexes and of all ages, exceeds six million peopleaccording to data from the National Incontinence Observatory (ONI).
Specific, four million women and almost two million men they face this problem on a daily basis and the problems that come with it.
Not all cases of urinary incontinence are the same
Urinary incontinence is a symptom of an underlying condition; it could be daily habits, a physical problem or a medical condition. There are many types urinary incontinence, including:
- Urge incontinence (overactive bladder): is the inability to hold urine long enough to get to the toilet, the bladder muscle contracts too soon, and normal control is reduced. In most cases the cause is unknown, although it is known that it can occur due to problems in the nervous system, therefore, some people with certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury may suffer from urinary incontinence.
- stress incontinence: The loss occurs for reasons such as exercising, sneezing or coughing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects. It occurs when the pressure in the bladder is too great. It can also be a side effect of pregnancy as the pelvic floor muscles are often weakened during childbirth. In men, it can occur when they have undergone treatment for prostate cancer.
- functional incontinence: in this case there is nothing affecting the nervous system that controls the bladder and the urethra or lower urinary tract. It consists of the leakage of urine that is due to the difficulty in getting to the bathroom on time due, for example, to a lack of mobility.
- overflow incontinenceThis occurs when the amount of urine exceeds the capacity of the bladder to hold it. This usually occurs when there is an obstruction to the urine outlet that prevents normal emptying. In this case, an inflamed and larger than normal prostate may be a common cause.
Some factors that are related to urinary incontinence include delaying urination, age, being overweight, maternity, menopause, neurological damage, certain medications, urinary tract infections, or prostate problems.
Can urinary incontinence be treated?
In many cases, urinary incontinence can be treated, controlled and even cured. The treatment of urinary incontinence depends on the type it is and the cause that causes it.
Once these points have been clarified, it is important to start treatment: the sooner it is done, the better, because it is a reversible situation in most cases. However, and according to Decalogue of Urinary Incontinence50% of cases of urinary incontinence do not receive adequate treatment.
Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) can help with stress incontinence; bladder training can help with urgency. Sometimes, for both, drug treatment can help prevent urinary incontinence. Surgery may also be helpful in certain cases in order to keep the bladder in its usual position.
Lifestyle changes can also help prevent, or delay, some types of incontinence. Some of the most effective are:
- Avoid obesity because it increases the pressure on the bladder and surrounding muscles.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol because they stimulate the bladder excessively.
- Control fluid intake.
- Prevent constipation.
- No Smoking.
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