Urinary incontinence, also known as involuntary urination, is any uncontrolled leakage of urine. It is a common and distressing problem, which may have a large impact on quality of life. There are many different types of urinary incontinence. Although both men and women suffer from the condition, several factors unique to women increase the risk of urinary incontinence in females. Some studies suggest 24% to 45% of women over the age of 30 suffer from stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence in young women. Weakness in not just the pelvic floor muscles, but also in the urethral sphincter often plays a role in this type of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence is the second most common type in older women. Activities like exercise, walking, stretching, bending, laughing, coughing, sneezing, or lifting place strain on weakened pelvic floor muscles, and that leads to urinary leaks. The amount that leaks varies from a few drops or up to a tablespoon or more, depending on severity.
Increasing age and female gender increase the risk of urinary incontinence. Pelvic floor surgery, injury to the nerves in the lower back, chronic coughing, smoking, obesity, and pregnancy and childbirth are also common causes. Women who have multiple pregnancies are at an even greater risk, as are those who have undergone a C-section.
The other types of urinary incontinence are urge incontinence and mixed incontinence. While stress incontinence does not have a direct relationship with advancing age, urge incontinence is primarily a problem in the older women. Up to 35% of women over 70 experience this condition where there is a sudden, overwhelming urge to void, accompanied by loss of urine. Urge incontinence occurs due to over activity of the detrusor muscle. The hallmark symptom of this kind of urinary incontinence is frequent urination and nighttime urination. Diabetes, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections (UTI), medications for depression, allergies etc may cause urge incontinence.