Whether we like it or not, we are a genetic combination of our parents and their parents, and their parents, and so on. We are a genetic mixture that creates a new unique person that just happens to have some of the very traits of the people that created us – hair color, height, even the way we fold our hands is genetically inherited from our parents. Our parents are also to blame for freckles, the ability (or lack of) to roll our tongues, whether or not we have dimples, and whether or not you may develop light bladder leaks. All of these things can be attributed to genetic influence. Yes, you read that right. In addition to blaming your parents for your poor eyesight and a terrible sense of direction, you may also be able to add those involuntary leaks that happen when you sneeze, but only partly.
What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?
What even are these light bladder leaks? While there are actually several kinds of urinary incontinence, Stress Urinary Incontinence is one of the most common for women under the age of 60 and accounts for about half of all cases of incontinence, according to the National Association for Continence. Stress Urinary Incontinence, or SUI, can be defined as “a common medical condition that involves the involuntary loss of urine that occurs when pressure on the bladder is increased during physical movement of the body”. So basically, when you feel a light leak any time you laugh, run, cough, bend over, or lift you may be experiencing SUI.
Inherited Light Bladder Leaks
Now, as we mentioned before, developing light bladder leaks linked to SUI may be something to blame genetics for. Kind of. In a study conducted in 2011 on Swedish twins ages 20 to 46, both identical and fraternal. The result of the study revealed that our susceptibility to developing urinary incontinence could be explained by genetic factors. This is explained by gynecologist Dr. Anna Lena Wennberg, one of the researchers behind the study. She says, “With urinary incontinence, we saw that just over half of the variation (51%) can be explained by genetic factors,” says Wennberg. “This doesn’t mean that half of all people with urinary incontinence inherit it from their parents, but that around 50% of people’s susceptibility to urinary incontinence can be explained by their genes.” With modern science, researchers have actually been able to locate and identify the genes that may have an impact on continence. In a 2017 study, Rufus Cartwright, a professor in London, was able to genotype 8,979 women and sample bladder cells to identify genes. According to an article from Incontinence UK, “The researchers were interested in EDN1, which specifies a protein produced on the surfaces of blood vessels. This protein is expressed differently in the bladders of women with stress incontinence.” Researchers also narrowed down tow other genes linked to incontinence – CHRM3 and SULF2.
Of course, genetics are not 100% to blame as research has shown. Besides the chance that your EDN1 gene is out of whack, there are other risk factors and causes of SUI. In fact, many experts believe the urinary incontinence is usually a combination of symptoms and causes, making just one hard to pinpoint. One common factor, however, is the weakening or damaging of the pelvic floor – the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis.
Childbirth – Delivering a child vaginally can be seriously traumatizing to the pelvic floor and surrounding tissue, as one could imagine. According to Parents.com, “Five years after delivery, one-third to one-half of women report some degree of spritzing; 10 percent to 20 percent of women report having leakage that they consider ‘socially bothersome.’”
Menopause – During perimenopause, the period before women complete their last menstrual cycle, the production of estrogen is slowed, which may weaken the lining that supports the urethra.
Surgery – Surgeries that are traumatic to or directly involve the pelvic floor, like a hysterectomy or tumor removal, may weaken the muscles.
Lifestyle Choices – Smokers that develop a chronic cough as a result, may develop SUI as coughing causes repeated impacts that may weaken the pelvic muscles. In addition, your diet may have a bigger impact on urinary health than one might think.
If you’re experiencing light bladder leaks as a result of stress incontinence, you’re not alone! There are plenty of solutions available both by prescription and over-the-counter that you and a doctor can decide on. Some common solutions to helping reduce light bladder leaks include:
Kegels – Kegels are exercises meant to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that may help in controlling the flow of urine.
Medication – For those who are experiencing light bladder leaks as a result of hormone changes with menopause, your doctor may prescribe either orally ingested or topical estrogen to help reline and support the urethra.
Pads and Liners – Disposable pads and liners are designed to absorb urine and prevent leaks from ruining clothes or other surfaces. These are usually found in the feminine care aisle.
Revive® – Revive® is a new, reusable, bladder support device that can be purchased over-the-counter in the feminine care aisle. The device supports the bladder internally to reduce leaks for up to 12 hours a day!
If you’re not sure what solution would be right for you, talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional about your options.