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There’s no reason to live with a leaky bladder. These tips can help.

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It may be an embarrassing subject to discuss with your doctor, but if you leak urine during everyday activities such as laughing, sneezing, coughing, crying, exercising or heavy lifting, you’re not alone. The condition is called urinary stress incontinence, and it’s a common problem that affects mostly women. The good news is that there are treatments available that can help the condition. You don’t have to accept a leaking bladder as a normal sign of aging.

The most common reason for urine leakage is stretched or weakened pelvic floor muscles. This may occur due to weight gain, childbirth or other conditions that stretch the muscles as you age. When your pelvic floor muscles can’t properly support your bladder, it drops and you can’t tighten the muscles that close off the urethra, which is what stops the flow of urine. That’s why when there is extra pressure placed on the bladder during activities such as laughing or sneezing, you accidentally leak a little bit of urine.

“Overactive bladder (OAB) is defined as uncontrolled loss of urine (urinary incontinence), with or without urgency, in the absence of urinary tract infection or other obvious pathology. A very common condition, with greater than 1 in 7 people suffering with OAB, many OAB symptoms can be improved by simple fluid and dietary changes. The attached article can be a great start for those suffering from OAB from a non-pathologic source. Any further questions, concerns, or persistent symptoms should be directed toward your primary care doctor or urologist.”

–Ross T. Cockrell, MD, Urology

So what can be done to stop this from happening?
  • Lifestyle changes – Your doctor may recommend changing how much and when you drink fluids to see if this has any effect on leakage. Other lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or treating a chronic cough, may improve symptoms.
  • Pelvic floor rehabilitation – Bladder training and pelvic floor muscle training can help mild cases of urinary stress incontinence. This can include Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic rehab may also include biofeedback.
  • Devices – If lifestyle changes and pelvic floor rehab don’t help, your gynecologist may recommend a pessary. This is a plastic device inserted into the vagina that supports the neck of the bladder to help stop urine leakage.
  • Collagen injections – Injecting collagen or other bulking materials into the area around the urethra narrows it, which can help stop leakage. Multiple injections are usually required.
  • Surgery – If your condition doesn’t respond to less-invasive treatments, you may need a surgical procedure that involves placing a sling under the urethra to support it. The urethral sling helps keep the urethra closed during activities that put added pressure on the bladder. This procedure has a high success rate but should be a last-resort option, used only if other treatments have failed.

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Date Last Reviewed: June 27, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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