Urinary incontinence is not a separate condition, but a symptom of a disease. The term refers to any loss of control over the bladder. This could be for simple, easy-to-change reasons, such as drinking too much fluid. In other cases, incontinence could point to a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a chronic condition called overactive bladder (OAB).
Most commonly, women get UTIs when bacteria travel up the urethra. Because women have shorter urethras than men, women are more likely to get UTIs. Incontinence is a common symptom of the infection. Other signs of a problem can include a burning sensation while peeing, urine of intense color or odor, back or pelvic pain.
Do I have OAB?
Both lifestyle and medical factors can affect whether a person develops OAB. For example, overconsumption of caffeine or alcohol can lead to the condition. In some people, underlying conditions can be at play, including multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease, or diabetes. In men, an enlarged prostate can often lead to OAB.
Frequency vs incontinence
Women should understand that frequent urination is not the same as urinary incontinence. Frequency refers to how many times a day a person has to urinate. Incontinence, however, also involves leakage. On average, most people have to urinate 6-7 times in 24 hours. An urge to go more often may indicate an underlying condition, such as kidney stones, anxiety, inflammation, or an STI.
Treating OAB may involve taking oral medication or making some lifestyle changes. Some people may benefit from losing weight or adjusting fluid intake. Other treatments include pelvic floor exercises or Botox injections into the bladder. Antibiotics are usually the first course of treatment for UTIs. Some mild UTIs may go away without medication, although treatment options vary based on the severity of the infection and a person’s health history.
When should I see a doctor?
Because untreated UTIs can lead to further complications, patients should always see a doctor if symptoms last for more than a few days. Frequent urination can be uncomfortable and disruptive to a healthy life. Both OAB and UTIs may need medical intervention to find relief. See an OB/GYN or primary care provider to find out more about treatment options.