“Urinary problems are more common in women who have had babies, but I see them in patients of all ages,” says Dr. Sarah K. Colvin, MD, gynecologist at Indiana University Health. Here, three common complaints, and the most likely culprit:
If you leak when you laugh, cough, exercise, or bend over to pick up a heavy item, you have Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). While it’s rare in men (affecting mostly those who have had their prostate removed) it is extremely common in women, especially after they’ve been pregnant and given birth, which can weaken the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder. Weight gain, chronic constipation, or a smoker’s cough, which all can put extra pressure on the pelvic floor, can also cause SUI.
Treatments range from doing Kegels to tone up the pelvic floor (that’s the exercise where you clench your muscles as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine, hold for 3 seconds and release for 3; do at least 3 reps of 10 each day) to corrective surgery, which can improve symptoms in 85 percent of women, according to the American Urogynecologic Society.
Known as the “overactive bladder,” urge incontinence (UI) is when you have a sudden need to pee and can’t hold it in long enough to find a restroom. It’s often found in people who have diabetes, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis, and can also be associated with nerve damage, prostate problems, obesity, and pregnancy.
In addition to treating any underlying health conditions, UI can be managed with biofeedback (training yourself to recognize your body’s pattern of leakage and adjusting your behavior accordingly), Kegel exercises, and medications; surgery is also an option.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) affect millions of people each year, causing frequent urination with a painful, burning feeling; symptoms can also include fever, pelvic pain and bloody or cloudy urine. The infection can be in any part of your urinary tract, including kidneys, bladder, and urethra; it happens when urine, which is normally sterile, becomes infected with bacteria such as E. coli, which then multiplies in the bladder.
UTIs are treated with a course of antibiotics. To avoid getting them in the first place, be sure to drink plenty of water, which dilutes your urine and helps flush out bacteria and practice proper bathroom hygiene (wipe front to back to avoid introducing infection-causing bacteria into the urethra).