Urinary incontinence is an extremely common condition affecting over 3 million people in the UK and it is a very distressing condition. It is defined as the unintentional passing of urine and there are four different types:

  • Stress incontinence – urine leaks when the bladder is under additional pressure e.g. after coughing or sneezing.
  • Urge incontinence – a sudden urge to urinate comes and cause a leak of urine
  • Overflow incontinence – when you are unable to completely empty your bladder and urinary leakage occurs with the full bladder (like water over a damn)
  • Total incontinence – when the bladder is unable to hold any urine and therefore results in constant urine leakage.

Patients can experience a mixture of types of incontinence such as urge and stress incontinence.  If you believe that you are suffering from a form of urine incontinence, it is recommended that you book an appointment with your GP. At the appointment they should be able to diagnose the type of incontinence that you are suffering from using a series of questions. These will often include:

  • If the incontinence is brought on by coughing or laughing
  • If you need to use the toilet frequently during the day and/or night
  • If you have difficulty passing urine when on the toilet
  • Regular medications that you take
  • How much fluid you drink throughout the day, including alcohol and caffeine

Depending on the severity of the incontinence, your GP may advice you to follow some lifestyle modifications at home. These can include:

  • Pelvic floor exercise – daily exercises can help to improve urinary incontinence; this will usually take around 3 months to take affect
  • Quit smoking – if you suffer from a smoker’s cough, it may be causing urinary incontinence. This may help to reduce your symptoms while also improving your overall health
  • Exercise routine – if you take part in high impact exercises, it may be contributing to your urinary incontinence. Try to do low impact exercises such as swimming and cycling
  • Diet – certain foods such as spicy or acidic foods can irritate the bladder. Avoid foods such as curry and citrus fruits
  • Water consumption – many people will reduce their water intake, in the hope of stopping their urinary incontinence. Not drinking enough water can lead to more issues
  • Caffeine and alcohol consumption – both caffeine and alcohol affect the bladder in a negative way and may worsen your urinary incontinence symptoms

If these at-home changes do not help your urinary incontinence, your GP may refer you to see a urologist to do further investigations and look at possible ways to treat the condition. It is important to note that your urologist will fully explain any questions you may have and talk through all the different treatment options that will work for you.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.