“Laugh More, Leak Less” is a sign that brings many chuckles to people as they drive down scenic Highway 29 past our Kelseyville office. The sign is intended to bring attention to this common and embarrassing problem of urinary incontinence (the loss of bladder control). Millions of women experience bladder control problems and unfortunately many believe that this is a normal part of aging.

There are different types of urinary incontinence:

Stress incontinence is the loss of urine that occurs when you exert sudden pressure on your bladder by coughing, laughing, sneezing or lifting something heavy. It often occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are weakened, for example by childbirth or surgery. This is the most common type of incontinence.

Urge incontinence occurs when you have a sudden intense urge to urinate and have the involuntary loss of urine before you can reach the bathroom. Urge incontinence may be caused by urinary tract infections, bowel problems and neurologic problems such as strokes or multiple sclerosis. If there is no known cause it is also called overactive bladder.

Overflow incontinence occurs if you are not able to empty your bladder effectively. As a result you leak frequently once your bladder is already full. This can occur when there is a blockage to urine flow such as prolapse of the pelvic organs in a woman or an enlarged prostate gland in a man.

Functional incontinence occurs when you have physical problems such as arthritis or dementia that prevent you from getting to the bathroom in time.

Mixed incontinence is a mix of both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Treatment depends on the type of incontinence you have and what best fits your lifestyle. It may include simple exercises, changes in lifestyle, medicines, special devices or procedures prescribed by your doctor, or surgery.

Examples of simple lifestyle changes include decreasing your caffeine intake and drinking more water. People with incontinence often limit their fluid intake and this tends to make things worse. Going to the bathroom on a schedule (timed voiding) can be an effective way to stay dry for many people.

You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. But if incontinence is affecting your quality of life, seeking medical advice is important for several reasons:

Urinary incontinence may indicate a more serious underlying condition, especially if it’s associated with blood in your urine.

Urinary incontinence may be causing you to restrict your activities and limit your social interactions to avoid embarrassment.

Urinary incontinence may increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to make it to the toilet.

If urinary incontinence affects your day-to-day activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. If your doctor does not address the issue, it may be time to ask for a referral to another doctor with the expertise to help you. In most cases, treatment can reduce or eliminate the problem.

This column is no substitute for seeing your own health care provider.

Dr. Paula Dhanda is a practicing physician in Kelseyville. She is the founder of Worldwide Healing Hands. She may be reached at 279-8733 or visit https://drspecialtycare.com/ or http://www.worldwidehealinghands.org/.

Published in the Lake County Record Bee