No one wants to discuss bathroom habits, let alone a health problem that impacts how so many Americans go. While urinary incontinence is embarrassing, the truth is it’s more common than you may think, with around a third of Americans suffering from symptoms ranging from Overactive Bladder (OAB) to urge incontinence. But studies show that when it comes to stress urinary incontinence or SUI, women are more likely to experience light leaks in their lifetime.
What Do Light Bladder Leaks Mean?
So, what exactly is Stress Urinary Incontinence? Technically speaking, SUI is the involuntary loss of urine whenever the bladder, urethra, or urinary tract is put under pressure or stress. This is due to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles and surrounding tissues that cause either a urethral shift or intrinsic sphincteric deficiency (ISD), in which case the sphincter doesn’t seal off effectively at the bladder. People may even experience a little bit of both. The “stress” or pressure that can trigger these leaks ranges from high-impact activities such as jogging, biking, or climbing to lower-impact like sneezing, coughing, and laughing. Unfortunately, SUI is hard to predict and can manifest in a few small dribbles to a stream of urine. Stress incontinence is different from urge incontinence, however. Urge incontinence is the sudden and very strong need to urinate and can be caused by underlying health issues like an infection to intoxication.
To deal with these embarrassing leaks people turn to one, or a combination of, the following:
- Pads and liners
- Physical therapy
Why Women Experience Bladder Leaks
While both women and men can experience stress incontinence, of the 25 million Americans who reported experiencing some form of urinary incontinence, 75-80% are women. This is due to the many biological and external factors that women face throughout their life.
Childbirth – Women that have given birth either vaginally or through cesarean section are likely to experience SUI. Damage done to nerves, muscles, and surrounding tissue during childbirth may impact continence.
Hormonal Changes – Menopause, specifically women in the perimenopause stage are more likely to suffer from light bladder leaks due to the thinning of tissue that supports the urethra. Some women opt for a topical cream or medication that contains estrogen to help rebuild the thinning tissue.
Urethra Size – Women’s urethras are actually shorter compared to their male counterparts, making damage more likely to result in incontinence.
Hysterectomy – A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove all or part of the uterus for various reasons from a cancer diagnosis to reproductive complications like endometriosis. In performing a hysterectomy the pelvic floor and surrounding tissues and nerves are involved and interfered with, which may lead to involuntary leaks post-surgery.
Men Can Have SUI, Too
While it is more common for women to experience SUI, men can suffer from light bladder leaks as well. There are health and lifestyle factors that can contribute to stress incontinence that both women and men share.
Obesity – People that are obese or overweight are more likely to suffer from SUI as extra weight can add extra pressure on the urinary tract and weaken the pelvic floor.
Smoking – Beyond cigarettes being a known bladder irritant and being linked to bladder cancer, smokers cough more than non-smokers. Extra coughing over the years can put stress on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles and may contribute to stress incontinence.
Aging – As we age, our bodies lose muscle mass, strength, and flexibility. This is true for our pelvic floor muscles, regardless of age, resulting in SUI.
High-Impact Activities – Both men and women athletes are more likely to experience light bladder leaks than others. Often times training and performing for years can damage and weaken the pelvic floor. Runners, cyclists, and lifters commonly experience stress incontinence.
Men who have had prostate surgery to remove the prostate are also at higher risk to suffer from leaks. This is because the sphincter is directly below the prostate gland and encircles the urethra. Surgery may damage or weaken the nerves and surrounding tissue in the process. So, while men can suffer from stress incontinence, it is more likely that women will experience the damage and hormonal changes that contribute to it than men.
Revive™ for Women
Because SUI impacts so many women and their quality of life, women’s health company Rinovum has researched and developed a device meant to help support the bladder so you can stay dry. Revive is the new bladder support product for women that doesn’t require sizing or a prescription and is FDA-cleared for over-the-counter use. Inserted like a tampon, it comfortably supports the bladder for up to 12 hours of leak protection a day. Safe, easy, and reusable to help reduce the amount of disposable waste that is created with incontinence products. Find Revive at retailers nationwide!