Urinary incontinence. It can be a taboo subject for many people, but did you know it’s actually more common than asthma? Urinary incontinence is associated with having an overactive bladder (OAB), and there are different types.

Stress incontinence is when urine escapes during some sort of physical exertion like laughing, coughing or exercise. Another type is urge incontinence. This is the typical case of having the sudden urge to go to the bathroom and if you cannot hold it, urine might escape.

Does overactive bladder only happen in women?

More women than men experience overactive bladder, however, around three to 11 percent of men may experience urinary incontinence. The most common type of incontinence in men is urge incontinence, accounting for about 80 percent of cases. In men, stress incontinence can occur and may happen after prostate surgery, trauma or neurologic damage. With both women and men, the incidence increases with age.

How is urinary incontinence and overactive bladder treated?

Patients who suffer from urinary incontinence sometimes do not seek care because they think that the only option available is surgery, however this is not always true. Treatment varies depending on the type of incontinence. The important thing to know is that incontinence often improves with behavior modification, lifestyle changes, changes in your diet, and pelvic floor exercises. Sometimes the treatment is multi modal and can include surgery and/or medications.

There are different lines of treatment we can offer patients as guided by evidence-based algorithms. For example, for stress incontinence, pelvic floor exercises can be used. If this fails to relieve the symptoms, minimally invasive procedures can be considered.

For OAB and urge incontinence, initial treatment can include medications in conjunction with lifestyle changes. However, if that fails, there are other options available, including minimally invasive procedures like modulation to the nerves that control the bladder, or even botox injections to the bladder.

Whatever the case, there are proven options to consider so that an overactive bladder does not greatly impact your quality of life. The specialists in our Pelvic Floor Disorder Program can help.

Janice Santos, M.D.

Janice Santos, M.D. is a board-certified urologist practicing with Lifespan’s Women’s Medicine Collaborative, where she provides care for patients through its Program for Pelvic Floor Disorders.  Dr. Santos' clinical interests include medical and surgical treatment of female incontinence, voiding dysfunction, and other urological issues for women