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Stress urinary incontinence is easily identified when there is involuntary leakage of urine when straining, such as coughing, laughing, sneezing or lifting heavy objects, for example.
This usually happens when the pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter are weak and is therefore more common in the elderly. However, problems in the spinal column or brain that can alter the signals sent to the muscles can also be at the origin of this type of incontinence.
Often, people with this problem end up isolating themselves and avoiding social interactions as they are afraid of smelling like urine. However, there are some forms of treatment that help reduce the frequency of incontinence episodes and can even stop the involuntary leakage of urine.
What can cause incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence occurs when there is a weakening of the sphincter or the muscles that hold the bladder, and this can have some causes such as:
- Multiple deliveries: women who have gone through labor several times may have more dilated and injured pelvic muscles, making it difficult for the sphincter to work to contain urine in the bladder;
- Obesity: excess weight puts more pressure on the bladder, making it easier to pass urine;
- Prostate surgery: Men who have had to have their prostate removed are at greater risk of having stress incontinence because minor injuries to the sphincter or sphincter nerves can occur during surgery, reducing its ability to close and hold urine.
In addition, people with conditions that can cause frequent coughing or sneezing are also at an increased risk of incontinence, especially with aging, as the muscles weaken and are not able to compensate for the pressure on the bladder. The same is true for high impact sports like running or jumping rope, for example.
How to confirm the diagnosis
The diagnosis of stress urinary incontinence can be made by a general practitioner or urologist by evaluating the symptoms. However, some tests can also be performed, such as an ultrasound of the bladder, to assess the amount of urine when the episode of urine loss occurs, facilitating the choice of a form of treatment.
How the treatment is done
There is no specific treatment for stress urinary incontinence, and the doctor may choose several forms of treatment, such as:
- Kegel exercises: can be done daily to strengthen the pelvic floor, reducing the frequency of incontinence episodes. See how to do this type of exercises;
- Decrease the amount of water ingested: it must be calculated with the doctor to avoid excessive formation of urine, but without causing dehydration of the organism;
- Do bladder training: it consists of scheduling times to go to the bathroom in order to get the bladder used to emptying at the same time, avoiding involuntary losses.
Also, making some dietary changes can also help in cases of incontinence. See a video from our nutritionist about food in these cases:
Although there are no drugs approved specifically for incontinence, some doctors may recommend the use of antidepressants such as Duloxetine, which decrease stress and anxiety by reducing contraction of the abdominal muscles and relieving pressure on the bladder.
Another option for cases that do not improve with any of the techniques is to have incontinence surgery in which the doctor repairs and strengthens the pelvic muscles. Learn more about this type of surgery and when to do it.