What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects the airways (tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs) causing inflammation and making it difficult to breath. When airways are affected, they get narrower, resulting in less air getting to the lungs making them very sensitive. Common asthma triggers include animals (pet hair), dust mites, certain medicines (aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), changes in weather (most often cold weather), chemicals in the air or in food, exercise, mould, pollen, respiratory infections, such as the common cold, strong emotions (stress) and tobacco smoke. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, especially early in the morning or at night, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
What is incontinence?
“Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine.” There are a few different types of incontinence, one being stress incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when pressure or stress is put on your bladder causing urine to leak. Types of pressure can include sneezing, coughing, laughing, exercising, jumping or heavy lifting.
What is the link between Asthma and Incontinence?
In a scenario where someone suffers with asthma, they may cough as a result of a nearby trigger. This cough can exert pressure onto the bladder and cause urine to leak. This means that patients that struggle with asthma, may also suffer with incontinence as a result of extra pressure on their bladder.
The muscle responsible for opening and closing your bladder is called the urethra. Unless you are incontinent, this muscle generally stays closed until you need to use the toilet. The force of a cough can place extra pressure on your urethra, especially if it is already weakened. Additionally, when your bladder expands, it can also cause muscles to weaken the urethra. Weaker urethras are usually involved in a greater number of bladder leaks.
Many asthma patients find that their cough begins to ‘take over’ as they cannot control their coughing fit and pelvic floor muscles at the same time. These pelvic floor muscles are what controls bladder leakages.
A study that was conducted at Manchester Severe Asthma Service in 2006 found that the overall prevalence of urinary incontinence (at least one episode a week) in females that attended the clinic was 34 out of 75 (45.3%). The average age of the analysed patients was 47 years old with the youngest being 18, and the oldest 73 years old. The study also found that prevalence of incontinence in female asthma patients peaked as they got older. 64.3% of patients between 50 – 64-years-old that suffered with asthma, also suffered with incontinence, potentially because of their asthma.
Asthma can be managed depending on the severity of the patients’ symptoms. Medications can be administered through inhalers or nebulizers or additionally through tablets to help manage the condition. If you believe you are suffering with asthma, it is recommended that you consult a doctor.
Incontinence can also be managed depending on the severity of the patients’ symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be available however there are other alternatives to help your leaky bladder. These include: pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) and using incontinence protection (pads, liners or underwear). If you believe you are suffering with incontinence, it is recommended you consult your doctor.
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Medical Disclaimer: Articles are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. Ask a medical professional if you have any health-related questions or concerns.
Barrie, M. (2022). Respiratory conditions and urinary incontinence. https://www.ucc-today.com/journals/issue/launch-edition/article/respiratory-conditions-and-urinary-incontinence-ucct
Niven, P, R. (2006). Urinary incontinence in patients with bronchiectasis. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/27/4/866
SWS, D. (2020). Urinary Incontinence when coughing. https://asthma.net/living/urinary-incontinence-coughing