Can Bladder Leaks and Urinary Incontinence Be Cured?

Urinary incontinence – sometimes referred to as bladder leakage – is one of the most common symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB). There are several types of urinary incontinence, and some patients experience a mixture of types. Though urinary incontinence affects older adults at higher rates than younger adults (especially among women), any bladder leakage is not a normal part of aging, can have a significant impact on quality of life, and may be a sign of an underlying health problem. 

Because the condition severely impacts patients’ quality of life, preventing them from participating in activities like exercise and travel, effective treatment for urinary incontinence is of the utmost importance. So the question arises, is there a cure for overactive bladder-related urinary incontinence? Keep reading to learn more about treatment options for bladder leakages caused by OAB.


What causes urinary incontinence?


Before discussing if there’s a cure for overactive bladder or urinary incontinence, it’s important to understand what’s happening in the body when bladder leakages occur.

Urinary incontinence is the clinical term for the involuntary loss of urine. In a normally functioning bladder, when the bladder becomes full and you are in a position to urinate, the muscles around the bladder contract to push out the urine. Meanwhile, sphincter muscles around the urethra relax to allow the urine to flow through.

When communication between the brain and bladder is not functioning properly, or if the bladder or sphincter muscles have been weakened by age, pregnancy, menopause, or certain medical conditions, the bladder can become incapable of holding normal amounts of urine, leading to bladder leakages that can cause embarrassment and disruptions to patients’ daily lives.


Types of urinary incontinence


  • Urgency incontinence: Sudden, strong urge to urinate, resulting in the involuntary loss or leakage of urine. Urgency incontinence is just one of several potential symptoms of OAB. Others include frequent urination (urinating more than 8 times in a period of 24 hours) and nocturia (excessive nighttime urination).
  • Stress incontinence: Bladder leakage caused by pressure on the bladder, such as that caused by coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising, or even standing up. For women in particular, stress incontinence can be caused by pregnancy (the baby can put pressure on the bladder), childbirth (which can affect the functioning of bladder and pelvic muscles), menopause, and female anatomy (e.g., the female urethra is shorter than the male urethra).
  • Mixed incontinence: The presence of both urgency incontinence and stress incontinence. Mixed incontinence is common for women who have bladder leakage, and can indicate underlying health conditions besides OAB, including infections (such as UTIs), diabetes, or neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. 


In order for doctors to recommend effective treatment, it’s important to determine the underlying cause of your bladder leakages. When urinary incontinence is caused by specific medical events or health conditions such as the diseases or infections mentioned above, those health conditions will need to be addressed in order for urinary incontinence to resolve.

If no other cause can be determined, the culprit is often the chronic condition known as overactive bladder (OAB). Because OAB is chronic (long-lasting condition), there is no “cure.” However, symptoms can be effectively managed with treatment options that range from lifestyle changes to medication to advance therapies such as electrical stimulation of the nerves that help control the bladder. 


Behavioral cures for overactive bladder-related leakages


First-line treatments for urinary incontinence caused by OAB typically consist of non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical behavioral interventions. These include:


  • Keeping a bladder diary: Tracking when leakages occur and if they’re triggered by pressure (stress incontinence) or not – as well as any other symptoms that may be related, such as nocturia or frequent urination – is an important way to inform your doctor about the nature of your symptoms. From there, your doctor may prescribe a bladder training regimen.
  • Bladder training: Bladder training is a behavioral therapy aimed at re-training the bladder to restore bladder control. Techniques include scheduled bathroom breaks and delayed urination. Practicing such a bladder training regimen can help patients develop the ability to hold urine in the bladder for longer periods – several hours, in some cases – without leakages.
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises: Kegel exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles that help you start and stop urinating and, when practiced daily, can be a very effective behavioral intervention for urinary incontinence in women. Other methods for strengthening the muscles around the bladder and urethra include quick flicks and biofeedback.
  • Dietary and fluid monitoring: Eliminating or reducing foods and fluids that exacerbate bladder problems, such as fluids that make you urinate more (like coffee, tea, and alcohol), can alleviate symptoms of urinary incontinence.


Pharmaceutical interventions for urinary incontinence


If behavioral interventions are not effective, doctors can prescribe several medications to treat OAB symptoms such as urge incontinence. Finding the right medication can take some trial and error, and many include side effects that can be worse for elderly patients.


Advanced therapies


When behavioral interventions and medication do not sufficiently alleviate bladder leakages, doctors may recommend advanced therapies such as Botox injection or electrical stimulation to certain nerves involved in brain-bladder communication.

Axonics has developed one such therapy, which involves a minimally invasive implant that treats OAB-related urinary incontinence through remote-controlled electrical signals to the sacral nerve.


Learn more about Axonics Therapy


There may not be a cure for overactive bladder, but the minimally invasive Sacral Neuromodulation system is an effective method for restoring normal bladder functioning. To see if this therapy is right for you, read more about the Axonics Therapy today.


Disclaimer: Axonics does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.