Author: Associate Prof Siow Woei Yun, Raffles Hospital
Urinary incontinence refers to the involuntary leak of urine. It affects approximately 30-40% of women worldwide. The commonest causes of urine leak include stress urinary incontinence, urge urinary incontinence and mixed urinary incontinence.
At present, the help seeking rate for women with urinary incontinence is less than 50%. This is attributed to many common misconceptions. These misconceptions include:
- Acceptance as part of ageing;
- Belief that symptoms are mild/selflimited;
- Ignorance regarding sources of help;
- Low expectations for treatment and
- Fear of invasive procedures.
However, urinary incontinence is not merely a medical problem. It is also a social problem because people close to the affected individual may not comment on the urine leakage but they will certainly smell the evidence. Thus, urinary incontinence is a problem that must be addressed and solved.
Stress urinary incontinence refers to urine loss upon straining e.g. cough, sneeze, laugh, carrying heavy loads, skipping, jumping, brisk walking, and sometimes even standing. This occurs when the pelvic floor is too weak to keep the urethra closed under situations of stress/exertion thus resulting in urinary incontinence. Risk factors for this problem include pregnancy, childbirth, ageing, menopause, manual labour, obesity and repetitive strain e.g. chronic cough, chronic constipation and high impact sports.