Why are my pants wet when the only thing I did was sneeze?

Weak bladders in women:

Urine Leakage: A Common Health Problem for Women of All Ages

The reason I am talking about weak urinary bladders in women is that often, sneezing is not the first thing that comes to one’s mind when talking about urine leakage in aging women. And since our Wiki page is about sneezes and we have learned about the excretory system in class, I thought it would be a good review to go over how urine is created and how urinary bladder operates.

Women of all ages have bladder control problems. You may think bladder control problems are something that happens only to old women.  However, the truth is that women of all ages have this problem. The problem of urine leakage is also called incontinence. Men leak urine too, but it’s more common in women.

  • Many women leak urine when they exercise, laugh hard, cough, or sneeze.

  • Often women leak urine when they are pregnant or after they have given birth.

  • Women who have stopped having their periods-menopause-often report bladder control problems.

  • Female athletes of all ages sometimes have urine leakage during strenuous sports activities.

The picture below shows some common types of incontinence.

Urine leakage is more common in older women, but that doesn’t mean it is solely due to the aging. Incontinence is not a disease, but it may be a sign that something is wrong. It’s a medical problem.

How does the bladder work?

Parts of the bladder control system:

The bladder is a part of the excretory system. The bladder is a balloon-shaped organ that stores and releases urine. It gets urine from the kidney, in which the filtration to create urine occurs in the renal cortex and renal medulla. Proximal convoluted tubule in renal cortex receives initial filtrate, and it goes into the loop of Henle, which increases the osmolarity due to water moving out. In the ascending limb of the nephron, water stays in the tube, but solvents go out of the tube, decreasing the osmolarity inside the tube. The distal convoluted tubule reabsorbs the filtrate, but doesn’t do anything with water. Then, it leads to collecting ducts. All of these processes happen between the renal cortex and renal medulla. Next, ureters, which are made of smooth muscles (two layers of circular and longitudinal) undergo peristalsis, acting as a transport system connecting the kidney to the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder sits on the pelvis. The bladder is supported and held in place by pelvic muscles. The bladder itself is a muscle. The tube that drains your urinary bladder is called the urethra. Ring-like muscles called sphincters help keep the urethra closed so urine doesn’t leak from the bladder before you’re ready to release it.

Parts of the bladder control system:

Several body systems must work together to control the bladder.

  • Pelvic floor muscles hold the bladder in place.

  • Sphincter muscles keep the urethra closed.

  • The bladder muscle relaxes when it fills with urine and squeezes when it’s time to urinate.

  • Nerves carry signals from the bladder to let the brain know when the bladder is full.

  • Nerves also carry signals from the brain to tell the bladder when it’s time to urinate.

  • Hormones help keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy.

Bladder control problems can start when any one of these features is not working properly. Because the bladder is supported by pelvic muscles, a sneeze causes those muscles to contract. This results in both a sneeze happening and the bladder to leak as the pelvic muscles contract causing the bladder to contract and urine to leak out of the bladder through sphincters.

References:

http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/bcw_ez/index.aspx

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