Ask the Experts: Ask the Experts Article: Is it Normal to Leak Urine?
Elizabeth Timbrook Brown, MD, MPH
If you leak urine, you likely have urinary incontinence. This is a loss of bladder control that can range from mild leaking to uncontrollable wetting. Millions of Americans—about 1 out of 2 women, and 1 out of 4 men—have urinary incontinence symptoms.
There are several kinds of urinary incontinence:
Stress incontinence, when urine leaks due to pressure on the bladder like during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting heavy objects.
Urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder. This is when you have a sudden need to urinate and urine leaks out.
Overflow incontinence, when the body makes more urine than the bladder can hold or the bladder gets too full. This causes leaking or “dribbling.”
If you leak urine, the first step to keeping you dry is to try lifestyle changes, such as limiting caffeine and alcohol, which may bother your bladder. Your doctor may also advise you not to drink for a few hours before bed. Another treatment is exercise to tighten and relax certain muscles in the pelvis, known as Kegels.
When lifestyle changes do not help enough, your health care provider may suggest prescription medications. There are also office procedures and surgeries that can help stop leaks so you may not need long-term medications.
You don’t have to live with urinary incontinence. If the fear of leaking urine stops you from doing things you enjoy, talk to your doctor.
Dr. Elizabeth Timbrook "Brook" Brown is a urologist with MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.
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