Weak bladder, also known as urinary incontinence (UI), results in the unintentional passing of urine. It’s a common problem that affects millions of people: men and women, young and old. It can be hugely disruptive to daily life as well as embarrassing. It may affect your ability to work, to sleep, and take long journeys, to name but a few hazards. Yet many people keep it a secret for years as they are too embarrassed to talk to their doctor about it.
Awareness needs to be raised about incontinence related issues so that people are encouraged to seek the help and support that they need.
Diagnosis is straightforward and treatments for poor bladder problems can have a dramatic impact on sufferers' lives. Many people don’t realise that a weak bladder is a medical condition that can be effectively managed or treated so that they can then enjoy a much better quality of life.
Weak bladder symptoms
A sudden urge to urinate
Frequent need to urinate
Having to get up to urinate at night
What are the types and causes of urinary incontinence?
The types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence – an unexpected leak when your bladder is under pressure, such as when you laugh or cough. This is the most common type of incontinence among women. It is usually caused by weak or damaged muscles that are used to prevent urination, such as pelvic floor or urethral sphincter muscles.
- Urgency incontinence - when you need to go, you need to go! You feel a sudden and intense urge to pass urine. It is typically caused by over-activity of the detrusor muscles that control your bladder.
- Mixed incontinence – a mixture of stress and urgency incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence (chronic urinary retention) – you can’t fully empty your bladder so you may have frequent leaks. This is often due to a blockage or obstruction in your bladder that stops it fully emptying.
- Total incontinence – your bladder is unable to store any urine at all so you pass urine constantly or frequently leak. Often this is due to a problem with your bladder from birth, a spinal injury, or a bladder fistula.
You may have an increased likelihood of developing a weak bladder if: you’re pregnant, you’ve had a vaginal birth, you’ve some health conditions such as obesity, you’ve a family history of incontinence, you’ve an enlarged prostate gland or an overactive bladder, or you’re ageing.
Simple diagnosis for a weak bladder
A weak bladder can usually simply be diagnosed during a consultation with your doctor. They may perform a pelvic examination (in women) to check your bladder and pelvic floor muscles, or rectal examination (in men) to check your prostate gland.
Treatments for a weak bladder
To start with, your GP may recommend some self-help measures that you can work on at home. You can see a physiotherapist to learn more about your diet, liquid intake, and exercises to strengthen your muscles that control the passing of urine. These include:
Lifestyle changes – you may be able to identify dietary triggers for your bladder dysfunction. Common triggers may include coffee and alcohol. Reducing your intake may help your weak bladder. Also losing weight and not having excessive fluid intake may help.
Pelvic floor exercises – to strengthen your sphincter and pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle exercises involve squeezing these muscles. You can be given advice on how to do this. By doing pelvic floor muscle exercises you can increase your bladder control. It’s advisable to continue doing pelvic floor muscle exercises for life to keep them strong and prevent the reoccurrence of UI.
Bladder training – a specialist can help you to learn ways to wait longer between needing to urinate and passing urine. You should try to avoid going to the toilet “just in case” and only go when you feel you have a full bladder.
If these aren’t successful, then you may be referred to a consultant urologist to help manage your symptoms. They will discuss with you your treatment options in detail. They may include:
Medications - to help increase the muscle tone of your urethra and help to keep it closed.
Surgery - the specific procedure will be based on the type of incontinence you have. They include:
Tape procedures – to hold your urethra up in the correct position (women only).
Colposuspension – to lift the neck of your bladder.
Sling procedures – a sling is placed around the neck of your bladder for support and to prevent accidental urine leaks.
Artificial urinary sphincter – use of a mechanical device to control the flow of urine from your bladder to urethra (mostly men).
Sacral nerve stimulation – insertion of a device near one of your sacral nerves that reduces your urge to urinate by improving the way signals are sent between your brain and your detrusor muscles.
Let Winfield Hospital help you
At Winfield Hospital in Gloucester they have experienced teams of professionals available to offer advice and treatment for weak bladders. There’s no need for embarrassment – they see patients with these symptoms every day and they are pleased to be able to help and offer solutions to allow them to enjoy life without worrying about leakage!
Their physiotherapists can offer an assessment, education and self-help programmes. They can teach you how to use your pelvic floor muscles correctly and show you exercises to strengthen them. They can take a look at your diet and lifestyle and discuss their effects on your bowel control. They can also give you advice on what and how much to drink, and how to stretch out your visits to the loo.
You can book an appointment with one of Winfield's physiotherapists by calling 01452 337246.
The consultant urologists at Winfield Hospital offer convenient appointments to discuss the next steps for your weak bladder, possible medications and surgery options.
Call Winfield Hospital on 01452 331111 to arrange an appointment with one of their consultant urologists.