You feel the sneeze coming on but try as you might, you can't stifle it. You let that bad boy fly (into the crook of your arm, natch), and feel a little bit of pee trickle down your thighs. You sigh and think "OK, starting tomorrow I'm totally going to do kegel exercises."
Uncontrollable peeing (also known as urinary incontinence) in women is quite common. According to the Office on Women's Health, millions of women experience urinary incontinence (UI), especially as they age. In terms of men, WebMD notes that UI occurs more often in older men than in young men, although it shouldn't be considered a normal part of aging.
But there are ways to treat it, so don't lose hope just yet.
So, what is urinary incontinence?
In a nutshell, UI is pee that is accidentally released. According to HealthLinkBC, uncontrollable peeing can happen when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or jog (sounds ... fun). For the most part, the symptoms are mostly annoying and possibly embarrassing, but they can signal an underlying health problem.
There are several types of urinary incontinence, but the most common type is stress incontinence, which is when you do things (like sneezing, coughing, or laughing) that put pressure on the bladder, which causes the pee to be released.
Another type of UI is called urge incontinence, which happens when you really have to pee but can't get to the bathroom in time, so you usually end up peeing yourself. According to HealthLinkBC, this can happen if you have an overactive bladder, but the site notes that not everyone who has an overactive bladder leaks urine.
Finally, overflow incontinence happens when you don't empty your bladder after you pee and afterwards you leak a bit of urine, which is also called "dribbling."
What are the causes?
There are many conditions that can cause UI, but some of the main causes include weakened bladder muscles because of older age, damage to the pelvic floor muscles, an enlarged prostate, cancer, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Other causes include constipation, urinary tract infections, kidney or bladder stones, prostatitis, interstitial cystitis, side effects from certain drugs such as blood pressure drugs, muscle relaxants, caffeine and alcohol, infection, nerve damage, and excess weight.
What are the symptoms?
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people who experience uncontrollable peeing deal with occasional small leaks of urine, however others experience accidental peeing more frequently.
Incontinence can include peeing after coughing, sneezing, jogging, laughing, having sex, or exercising; an urge to urinate often followed by involuntary peeing; dribbling even after going pee in the toilet; a condition that makes it hard for you to wait until you can use the toilet, resulting in accidental peeing; or you could experience a mix of these symptoms.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment will vary depending on what kind of UI you have, how old you are, and the state of your health. Talk to your doctor before trying any of these methods so you can determine what kind of treatment you should follow.
If you have stress incontinence, Medical News Today recommends doing kegel exercises (also good for prevention), which help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and the urinary sphincter. (Learn more about kegel exercises here.)
The health website also recommends bladder training as a treatment option, and can involve delaying urination whenever you feel like you have to pee; going pee, waiting a few minutes, and going pee again; and setting a schedule for bathroom breaks.
According to HealthLinkBC, some women may need surgery.
Aside from the above, HealthLinkBC has at-home suggestions that can help treat UI, including cutting back on caffeine and soda drinks; eating foods that are high in fibre; and going to the bathroom several set times a day.
According to MedicineNet, experts are still seeking out new and better treatments for UI in men.
How can you prevent it?
Not all urinary incontinence can be prevented, but there are many things you can do to decrease the risk, including doing kegel exercises, drinking less alcohol and caffeine, eating more fibre, seeking help to quit smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Also on HuffPost: