It’s just a fact of life that men’s and women’s bodies operate differently and are susceptible to different problems. Due to anatomical realities, women tend to have much more likelihood of encountering medical issues regarding their bladders and urinary tract than are men. The causes are many and so are the potential issues.
One broad area of concern for women is around urinary incontinence or an overactive bladder. This occurs when a woman has urine leakage, a strong urge to suddenly release urine and/or an increase in frequency around urination. To understand the possible causes of this condition, a little anatomical knowledge is necessary.
The bladder operates like a bag that is filled with urine, which flows in from the kidney. When it is not yet full, the muscles in the bladder are relaxed to allow it to continue expanding and receiving urine. As the bladder reaches a full state, the pelvic nerve sends a signal to the brain that it is full and to tighten the sphincter of the urethra so no urine will leak out before appropriate. Once a proper place to release the urine is reached, the brain will send a signal back to the pelvic nerve that the urethra can relax and the bladder wall muscles should contract to squeeze out the urine.
If any of the processes described above is interrupted, urinary incontinence may occur. After menopause, the estrogen that had kept these muscles elastic and strong is removed, increasing the chances greatly. During or after a pregnancy it is very common for women to experience leakage and increased frequency as well. The nerve signals being sent may also malfunction due to diseases, like diabetes, that damage nerves.
There are so many causes of urinary incontinence in women that some estimates suggest half of all women have at least occasional leakage and loss of control. For many women, this may simply be a rare occurrence that is nothing to be worried about. Female athletes often report that in very strenuous activities they will leak urine. Other women occasionally release small amounts of urine when they laugh, cough or sneeze. This may be nothing to worry about.
Incontinence is not the only bladder problem women will likely face though. Urinary tract infections are also much more common in women than men. This is due to the greater exposure to bacteria in the opening of the urethra for women. Also, the actual urethra is much shorter in women allowing bacteria to travel to the bladder easier. Urinary tract infections can have some of the same symptoms as incontinence, in that the urge to frequently urinate will be present. However, with a urinary tract infection there will also be pain in the abdomen, as well as burning during urination.
Losing control of one’s bladder can be an embarrassment that may make one not wish to leave the house. Most causes of bladder problems in women can be treated though, so if you are dealing with any symptoms described in this article, you do not have to suffer in silence. Associated Urologists of North Carolina has many board-certified to serve those in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Wake Forest, Clayton, Dunn, Clinton and the surrounding areas. Please contact our office at 919-758-8677.