Most women are embarrassed by bladder issues, but truth is, bladder problems in women are a lot more common than people think. Some comforting news on the matter is there are multiple treatment options available depending on what type of bladder problem a woman is experiencing. Here we'll discuss the various types of bladder problems, so that women can feel a little more comfortable and knowledgeable when consulting their doctor.
Bladder Issues Aren’t Just An Old Woman’s Problem
While it's true that bladder problems become more common as women age, it is in no way an old woman's problem. According to the American Urogynecologic Society, urinary incontinence alone affects between 30 and 50 percent of women. Interstitial cystitis, another common bladder problem affects another 750,000 people, most of them women as well, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. It is believed that at least a third of women between the ages of 30 and 70 have had some type of bladder problem, and many live with the problem on a daily basis.
Because bladder problems aren't life threatening, women are often made to feel like these types of problems are "normal" and just a part of getting older or having children, but they are not. Though some bladder problems run in families, women may often feel alone in dealing with these issues. Bladder problems are never normal, and although they may not be life threatening, they definitely pose a threat to self-esteem and quality of life.
Many women who have these problems are apprehensive about leaving the house or embarrassed about purchasing incontinence products at the drugstore. But they need not be, since there are ways to treat most bladder problems that allow many women to return to their normal lives.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the various bladder problems often experienced by women. They include:
- Weakened pelvic floor muscles as a result of childbirth or other trauma
- Surgeries such as bladder surgeries or hysterectomy
- Other illnesses such as cancer
- Nerve damage
Urinary incontinence is one of the main bladder issues that women face. This lack of bladder control can range from just a few drops of urine to completely wetting oneself. There are a variety of forms of this specific bladder problem in women:
- Temporary Incontinence: As the name implies this is a temporary form of incontinence usually caused be something transient, such as aurinary tract infection or a side effect of a new medication. Over time this type of incontinence subsides on its own.
- Stress Incontinence: Not to be confused with mental stress factors, this type of incontinence occurs whenever stress is placed on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, exercising or laughing. Weak pelvic floor and sphincter muscles can allow urine to leak out during these types of activities. Mental stress doesn't cause incontinence.
- Urge Incontinence: Just as the name suggests, urge incontinence occurs after a strong urge to urinate. This type of incontinence is often the result of nerve damage associated with diabetes, a stroke or other medical condition. Urge incontinence can be easily recognized as leakage upon trying to hold one’s urine in.
- Mixed Incontinence: This type of incontinence is a combination of stress and urge incontinence. A person may leak urine when coughing or laughing, but may also experience leakage during a strong urge to urinate.
- Functional Incontinence: Arthritis, dementia or other medical problems that prevent a person from going to the bathroom before having an accident is called functional incontinence.
Other Types Of Bladder Problems In Women
While incontinence is the most common, it is in no way the only bladder problem experienced by women. Other problems include:
- Pelvic organ prolapse: This is a condition in which the muscles that support the pelvic organs become weakened and the pelvic organs slip out of place. There are many ways in which this can happen. Often, pelvic organ prolapse is the cause of overflow incontinence because the pelvic organs can cause pressure and blockages that affect the emptying of the bladder.
- Interstitial Cystitis: This is a type of chronic inflammation that affects the wall of the bladder. This can result in the walls of the bladder becoming thick and stiff, affecting how much urine the bladder can hold. Bleeding may result as well. The exact cause is unknown, but it is thought that a defect in the wall of the bladder may play a role.
- Overactive Bladder: This bladder problem is characterized by the need to urinate more than eight times per day or waking more than two times each night to urinate. Overactive bladder occurs when the bladder muscles involuntarily contract. A number of things can cause overactive bladder, which often leads to urge incontinence.
Symptoms of bladder problems include:
- Frequent urination (more than eight times per day)
- Pain or pressure when needing to urinate that improves after urination
- Pain during sex
- A bladder that doesn't hold as much as it once did
Incontinence is not only a bladder problem on its own, but it can also be the most noticeable symptom of other bladder problems, such as overactive bladder or pelvic organ prolapse.
There are several treatment options available depending upon the severity and type of bladder problem. They include;
- Kegel exercises: These exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor and can help to relieve incontinence. It can take several weeks of Kegel exercises before a woman sees results, but they are effective. For more information, read A Comprehensive Guide To Kegel Exercises For Women.
- Timed voiding: This technique requires a woman to keep a log of how often and when she urinates. Using this information, she can begin spreading out the time between bathroom trips in order to strengthen bladder muscles.
- Diet Changes: Some foods and drinks can cause an increase in urination. By avoiding these foods and drinks, a woman may experience fewer urges to urinate.
- Weight loss: Excess body weight can cause incontinence, so losing some pounds can help relieve certain types of incontinence.
- Medications: Consult your physician for possible medications that can help with bladder problems.
- Pessaries: These ring shaped medical devices that are inserted into the vagina to help support the pelvic floor muscles.
- Nerve Stimulation: A device is implanted that stimulates the nerves in your back that control the bladder and its contractions.
- Surgery: There are a number of surgical procedures that can relieve some types of bladder problems, such as pelvic organ prolapse.
- Catheterization: Used with some bladder problems, a catheter is a small tube that is inserted into the urethra to empty urine from the bladder. Some people only need to use catheters occasionally, while others will need them all the time.
Bladder problems in women are nothing to be ashamed of. By speaking to their doctors, women can find relief from their bladder problems and return to a normal functioning life.