Urinary incontinence is not always an unavoidable consequence of the aging process, childbirth, or an "overactive bladder". Unfortunately, the distressing nature of this common problem often prevents women from seeking medical attention. Because incontinence is occasionally a sign of serious underlying disease, it is important to have it evaluated. Many treatment options, both surgical and non-surgical, are available to improve the condition in most people.
The two most common forms of incontinence are 'stress' (leaking urine with coughing, sneezing, exercise, changes in position), and 'urge' (the inability to postpone urination until reaching the bathroom).
Stress incontinence is caused by excess pressure on the bladder (from extra weight, weak supporting muscles, sudden exertion), and is addressed by weight loss, smoking cessation, pelvic muscle conditioning, or surgery.
Urge incontinence is usually associated with overactive bladder (OAB). Symptoms include urgency, frequent urination, and waking up at night to urinate. Dietary and habit changes can improve symptoms, as can anticholinergic medications such as oxybutynin, trospium, and various trademarked prescription drugs.