Urinary incontinence is when you pass or leak urine without control. It may be constant, occasional, heavy or light. There are many different causes of incontinence. It can lead to a lack of confidence, feelings of helplessness, can destroy self-esteem and even become an overwhelming force controlling the lives of women. In order understand the problem, we need to know how the urinary system operates, and the muscles involved in bladder control.
How the bladder works
We have two kidneys that produce urine. They send the urine down a tube (the ureter) to the bladder, which keeps the urine until full when we have an urge to pass urine (to micturate). When we want to pass urine we relax the muscle holding the bladder neck in place (urethral sphincter) and contract the bladder to empty the urine through the urethra (tube to the outside). For the bladder to work properly the sensors that tell us the bladder is empty or full must work properly, the sphincter that holds the urine in must work properly, and the nerves that communicate with the brain and spinal cord must work properly.
When the bladder leaks
When you leak urine when you do not expect or want to, the circumstances surrounding the leak will often gives us a clue as to why. For instance if you leak urine when you laugh, run or cough it is likely that you are suffering from a weak bladder neck (the stress of moving causes you to leak – stress incontinence). On the other hand if you have an urge to pass urine but leak before you get to the toilet, it is likely that the nerve signals are sending you the wrong signals, making you rush when you don’t have to (urgency).
If you suffer from incontinence do go and speak to your doctor and seek help. You may find it embarrassing to talk about your problem, but remember it is such a common problem and so much can be done to help you.