Learn from Leaky Lucy: What Are the Causes of Urinary Incontinence?

Sometimes we learn life lessons best when we see them play out in the lives of close family or friends. Many women have become aware of the problems of incontinence through the ordeal of their mother, sister, aunt, or best friend that has suffered with involuntary urine loss or frequent bladder leakage. Other women, though, have been exposed only briefly to the issues of urinary incontinence – maybe just a casual mention at a yearly physical examination, or a snippet in an article on women’s bladder health.

If you don’t personally know someone suffering from urinary incontinence, then we’d like to illustrate the symptoms and potential impacts that this condition can have on a woman’s day-to-day life. To do so, we’d like to introduce you to Leaky Lucy. In the first of this two-part series, we’ll look at the variety of conditions that can cause urinary incontinence.

Meet the Leaky Lucys

Leaky Lucy is a woman in her late-50’s beginning to face the facts of aging and adjusting to menopause. But Leaky Lucy could also be a mom of three children in her mid-30’s – full of energy and in good health. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Leaky Lucy was a woman in her 80’s, living a semi-independent life, but with the assistance of dentures, eyeglasses, and now – adult diapers. The final version of Leaky Lucy is a young, active woman – perhaps about 25 – that enjoys marathons and staying physically fit through cardio and strength training.

What Are the Causes of Urinary Incontinence for Leaky Lucy?

As seen from the many variations of Leaky Lucy listed above, the causes of urinary incontinence can be varied. Let’s look at a few in more detail here:

Leaky Lucy #1: In the case of the late-50’s Leaky Lucy, a variety of factors could be the cause of urinary incontinence. As a woman ages, the damage done to the pelvic floor over the accumulated decades of life may lead to damaged muscles that support healthy bladder function. Additionally, the onset of menopause can cause changes in the body that affect the normal functioning of processes previously taken for granted – including the frequency of urination or it’s involuntary loss.

Leaky Lucy #2: For our second version of Leaky Lucy, we described a woman in her mid-30’s – an age often seen as the ‘prime of life.’ This Leaky Lucy is the proud mother to three children who have brought her great joy – and also great strain on the muscles of her pelvic floor during three natural child births. As a result of the damage to her pelvic floor, Leaky Lucy may have developed a cystocele – which is a prolapse of the bladder into the vaginal canal. This is the most common type of prolapse and can be associated with loss of urethral support and urinary incontinence. It is far from uncommon to see urine leakage as part of the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. In fact, one source reports that about 60% of women with pelvic organ prolapse were also found to have urinary incontinence.

Leaky Lucy #3: The third Leaky Lucy is facing a lot of challenges in life – age is diminishing her eyesight and her mobility, and causing her to be dependent on others to a large degree in life. Despite this, Leaky Lucy wants to live her ‘golden years’ with dignity – including being able to control her bladder and bowels. Urinary incontinence or fecal incontinence, though, may have Leaky Lucy back in diapers during these golden years. Aging takes its toll on muscle and nerve function and can impair the normal operation of organs – including the bladder and bowels. So aging itself can be a associated with incontinence.

Leaky Lucy #4: Perhaps the most surprising version of Leaky Lucy is our 25-year-old marathon runner. Despite being the picture of health and well-being, our athletic Leaky Lucy may be putting a lot of strain on her pelvic floor through her rigorous training program. Improper lifting techniques can result in muscle injury. Also, strong, athletic women generate lots of pressure, pressure that normal pelvic muscles can’t always deal with.  The result is a drippy, young, Lucy. Stress urinary incontinence is not uncommon during high-impact athletic activities – such as long-distance running. This Leaky Lucy is taking care of her body, but perhaps not giving attention enough to keeping her pelvic floor strong!

Which Leaky Lucy Do You Identify With?

Is there a Leaky Lucy that has a situation similar to yours or that of a loved one? Really, women of any age and in a variety of life situations have found themselves facing urinary incontinence. As we can see from the causes listed above, a wide variety of factors can urinary incontinence.

How does each Leaky Lucy face her incontinence and what are the treatment options available? More importantly, what can you do if you find yourself to be a bit of a Leaky Lucy? Our next installment of ‘Leaky Lucy’s’ story will give you the answers! In the meantime, call our office to write the ending to your own tale of urinary incontinence.