November is Bladder Health Month in the United States of America and while we don’t often think about our bladder, Bladder Health Month reminds us to make changes to our lifestyle to ensure our bladders continue working for us. Two of the most common bladder conditions affecting people across the U.S are urinary incontinence and overactive bladder. While these conditions are generally not life threatening, they can have a tremendous impact on a person’s quality of life.
Urinary incontinence affects more than 25 million people in the U.S. The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from the occasional small leak of urine when you cough or sneeze, up to a full emptying of your bladder before reaching a bathroom. For many people affected by urinary incontinence, simple lifestyle changes or treatments can ease your symptoms or stop urinary incontinence entire.
Urinary incontinence can be categorized into five groups:
- Stress incontinence – Urine leaks when you put pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.
- Urge incontinence – You feel a sudden and often intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including throughout the night.
- Overflow incontinence – You experience frequent or constant leaking of urine as a result of your bladder not emptying entirely when you do urinate.
- Functional incontinence – A physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the toilet in time. For example, if you have arthritis, you may not be able to move quickly or unbutton your pants quickly enough.
- Mixed incontinence – You experience more than one type of urinary incontinence.
To make a diagnosis your healthcare professional will likely ask about your diet, lifestyle, activity level, what brings on your urinary incontinence and if you’ve had any trauma i.e. childbirth or surgery. They will likely perform an examination to assess whether there is anything physical which may be causing your urinary incontinence, for example prolapse, an obstruction or an enlarged prostate.
Our bladder carries out two very important roles – to store urine and to eliminate urine. With an overactive bladder, these important roles are not performed effectively. You will likely experience strong and sudden urges to go to the bathroom and, for some this may result in urinary incontinence.
Overactive bladder (OAB) is a very common condition and is estimated to affect more than 33 million adults in the U.S. Overactive bladder occurs because the muscles in the bladder contract involuntary, even before the volume of urine in the bladder has reached a level when it would normally need to be eliminated. These contractions give you the feeling of needing to urinate.
As with urinary incontinence, your health professional will likely run through a series of questions to establish how your overactive bladder is affecting you and when you experience the symptoms most. They will run through questions about your diet, lifestyle, activity levels and your general overall health; to try to establish the cause of your overactive bladder.
Seek help if you’re concerned about your bladder
Many people are embarrassed speaking about bladder problems but there is no need to be. The sooner you speak with your health professional about your condition the sooner you can be given a treatment plan to help ease the symptoms. Although urinary incontinence and overactive bladder are relatively common in the U.S, this doesn’t mean that you have to live with the symptoms. Think about your bladder this Bladder Health Month.