Female Urinary Incontinence

Female Urinary Incontinence  - Types & Treatment Options

Urinary Incontinence (UI) is an accidental and unwanted loss of urine. There are millions of women in the U.S. who experience this problem.  There are many types of urinary leakage. Unfortunately, it is not just one simple type but could be several or even a combination. The most common ones are stress urinary incontinence (SUI), urgency urinary incontinence (UUI) and mixed urinary incontinence (MUI).  The good news is that urinary leakage is not a fatal problem but it can greatly impact the quality of one’s life.



Below is a description of each of the three main types:

  1. SUI is the most common form of incontinence in women and it is associated with activities such as coughing, laughing, exercising, sneezing, walking or jogging.
  2. UUI is completely different. It is when a patient has a urine loss associated with a strong compelling desire to void but then a person can’t hold it and can’t make it to the bathroom on time.
  3. MUI is the combination of both SUI and UUI.

When a patient presents with this problem, we start the evaluation process by having an in-depth discussion to determine the exact problem and type of incontinence. We also try to find out how this issue affects the quality of their life. We then move to a more detailed examination followed by the appropriate work up. At times, we may need to do a more in-depth evaluation of the bladder and urethra through viewing the inside of the bladder or recording the bladder pressure changes in a procedure call urodynamics. These are all simple procedures performed in the clinic.

Once we have identified the type of incontinence our patient has, we then start to individualize their treatment plan.

Needless to say, each type of incontinence has different treatment options. The good news is that we can start the treatment with a conservative non-surgical approach. Luckily, 40% to 60% of patients will respond to this approach if they are diagnosed appropriately. Conservative means including some behavioral modification and pelvic floor muscle training. If the response to this treatment is not up to the patient’s expectation, we then explore other options. There are many alternatives available based on the type of incontinence and the patient’s condition. Individualizing treatment options for patients is important since what fits one may not suit the other.  Keep in mind other options range from minimally invasive procedures to more invasive approaches depending on the type of incontinence.

The most important thing to know is that urinary incontinence is not normal; it is a disease that has available treatment options. If we do not try to help our patients to find out about this, they are going to suffer in silence for something that could easily be treated.  Successfully treated patients are very happy to get their quality of life back.  They often wish they had sought treatment earlier.

For more information or to make an appointment, contact SIU Division of Urology, 217-545-8000. 

Dr. Ahmed El-Zawahry, Assistant Professor, SIU School of Medicine, Division of Urology