Going to the toilet is a regular part of life—everyone out there knows what it’s like to feel a super-strong urge to pee. When you have to go, you have to go, and a full bladder doesn’t like to wait! However, while feeling that immediate urge to go is an infrequent occurrence for most, some people struggle with feeling like they have an overactive bladder all the time.
If you find that you feel the urge to pee all the time, or regularly struggle to make it to the toilet in time, you could be struggling with a form of urinary incontinence called urge urinary incontinence – or urge incontinence.
Having bladder issues like urge incontinence can feel embarrassing for those who have it. Regular urinary leakage and a loss of bladder control are health topics that can be hard to talk about, and those who have it might feel like it’s their fault.
We’re here to tell you that you are not alone. Urge incontinence is super common and actually affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men in Australia. Issues with bladder function are nothing to be ashamed of, and there are different things you can do to address the problem. Let’s explore what urge incontinence is, and answer the most common questions people have about this condition.
What is Urge Incontinence?
Urge incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine. This is caused by the onset of a sudden and strong need to urinate.
When you have urge incontinence, your bladder is sending signals to your brain that it is full even if that isn’t the case. In some cases, this urge is so strong that you don’t make it to the toilet in time, and experience urine leakage before you reach the toilet.
Urge incontinence can affect men, women, and children, and this need to urinate can be triggered by a number of things. Anything from different body positions, physical activity, fluid intake, or even the sound of running water can cause a urine leak.
Answering Common Urge Incontinence Questions
Now that we know more about urge incontinence, let’s answer some of the most common questions people have about it.
Why Do I Have To Go All The Time?
Struggling with increased urinary frequency and urinary urgency can be a symptom of a wide range of different urinary issues. Urinary incontinence is an umbrella term healthcare professionals use that encapsulates a wide range of different bladder issues. These include conditions like urge urinary incontinence, overflow incontinence, urinary retention, overactive bladder syndrome, and other issues.
If you are dealing with constant urges to go to the washroom and/or involuntary urination, it’s important to seek the help of healthcare professionals. A physician can help you identify the cause of your involuntary leakage issue, and find the treatment option that works for you.
Does Urge Incontinence Mean I Have a Prostate Issue?
Urge incontinence can be caused by a prostate issue, such as prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate. The most common issue caused by the prostate is urinary retention, with an enlarged prostate obstructing the flow of urine by increasing urethral pressure and making it harder to go.
When prostate issues are treated the opposite effect can happen, and damage caused to this sphincter muscle will instead make it harder to control your bladder. Prostate issues can also, in general, encourage an overactive bladder, and thus, involuntary leakage.
What are Some Urge Incontinence Causes?
There are a number of different factors that can lead to the development of urge incontinence. These can include:
- Nerve Damage/Nervous System Injury
- Muscle weakness or overactivity
- Prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
- Urinary Tract infection
- Bladder Infection/Inflammation
- Weak Pelvic Muscles/Pelvic Floor Muscle Dysfunction
- Stress and Anxiety
- Spinal Cord Damage
- Neurological Conditions
How Invasive is an Urge Incontinence Assessment?
Diagnosing urge incontinence is approached in a number of ways. While some measures can feel invasive, others are relatively easy to do. Common assessments include:
- Reviewing medical history
- Pelvic floor muscle assessment
- Urine dipstick test or urinalysis
- Cough stress test
- Bladder ultrasound
- Urodynamic studies
- Keeping a bladder diary
How do you Treat Urge Incontinence?
Urge incontinence treatment will vary from patient to patient, based on personal medical history, symptoms, and the cause of incontinence. Common treatments will include:
Bladder training: Bladder training is used to help patients better control their bladder. This includes keeping a bladder diary, recording fluid intake, and measuring urine output. After the assessment, different exercises that engage pelvic floor muscles will be employed, alongside diet and lifestyle changes. Your Physiotherapist will also teach you strategies to calm the urge sensation.
Pelvic exercises: As we touched on above, strengthening the pelvic muscles can help urge incontinence. Exercises like kegel exercises can be employed to avoid bladder leakage, and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowels.
Electrical stimulation: In some cases, electrical stimulation can be used as a treatment. Electrical signals will be used to stimulate pelvic muscles and get them to contract and strengthen for better control. Similarly, a tens machine can be utilised to modulate the nerve pathway to dampen down the signals sent from the bladder.
Medication: There are also different medications that can be prescribed to control bladder spasms. The use of botox can also be helpful when injected into the bladder muscle if other treatments don’t work. Always discuss the use of medications with your doctor first though.
Reduce stress & anxiety: Any form of stress & anxiety-releasing activity will have a positive impact on your symptoms too. Introducing therapeutic yoga into your daily routine is one very good example.
Should I Drink Less to Mitigate my Urge Incontinence?
In many cases, adjusting fluid intake and the types of drinks you consume can do a lot to help urge incontinence issues. Things like caffeine, sugar, and alcohol are common irritants for the bladder, and can lead to increased bladder leakage. We recommend cutting out liquids like coffee, tea, sodas, and sugary juices to see if it helps urinary issues. Your Physiotherapist will discuss your individual circumstance based on your bladder diary.
Seeking Help for Urge Incontinence
If you believe you are dealing with urge incontinence, we encourage you to reach out to a medical professional and find support. Reaching out to a specialised pelvic clinic can help, such as the team at the Sydney Pelvic Clinic. (Click here to book an appointment.)
You can also book an assessment from a credible source, such as the Continence Foundation of Australia. They have a ton of helpful resources and guides to help you learn more, and find the help you need.