Q. Do all women experience urinary incontinence?

A. Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control resulting in the involuntary release of urine.

According to the National Association for Incontinence, of the 25 million American adults living with some form of urinary incontinence, approximately 80 percent are women. In addition, women wait an average 6.5 years from the first time they experience symptoms until they obtain a diagnosis.

You may feel uncomfortable speaking with you doctor about this, but urinary incontinence could be a sign of an underlying condition.

The primary symptom is occasional, minor leaks of urine. The two most common types of urinary incontinence experienced by women are:

Stress incontinence. Urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by laughing, sneezing, coughing or exercising.

Urge incontinence. You have a sudden urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine.

Risk factors that can lead to urinary incontinence include smoking, obesity, recurring urinary tract infections, pregnancy, traumatic delivery and assisted child birth. Although urinary incontinence is more than twice as common in women than men, not all women will experience this condition.

There are several ways to treat the condition, including medicines for bladder control, surgery or natural interventions such as Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

In some cases, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in urinary tract disorders, such as a urologist or a urogynecologist. It's a good idea to prepare for your appointment by writing down your symptoms, current medications, and any questions you may have.

- Diane Robinson is a gynecologist at Nazareth Hospital