If you thought that incontinence was the inevitable result of aging or childbearing, think again. Simple lifestyle changes or a talk with your doctor may help you regain control of your bladder and get back to enjoying all the activities you love.
People suffer from incontinence for an average of 7 years before they ask their physicians for help, according to the National Association for Continence. But you don’t have to suffer anymore. Learn the basics about incontinence and take control of your life.
Facts About Incontinence
1. Causes. Incontinence can be caused by many things, including injuries to the pelvic area, prostate enlargement, neurological conditions, and diseases such as diabetes. It may also be associated with physical changes due to aging or pregnancy.
2. Prevalence. Experts believe that 25 million American adults experience incontinence. It’s four to five times more likely in women, mostly due to pregnancy and childbirth.
3. Common forms. Stress incontinence occurs when you put pressure on the bladder, like when you laugh or lift something heavy. Overactive bladder (OAB) or urgency incontinence means you feel a need to urinate frequently and may lose urine before you can reach the bathroom. Mixed incontinence refers to a combination of the two.
4. Success rate. Urinary incontinence can be significantly reduced or eliminated in about 80 percent of cases. This is great news! You may be able to enjoy a better quality of life and leave behind those embarrassing moments.
Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies for Incontinence
1. Lose weight. Being overweight contributes to stress incontinence. Gain weight at a healthy pace during pregnancy and lose excess pounds whenever you need to.
2. Train your bladder. Schedule your restroom breaks as frequently as possible. Gradually extend the time between trips if you can. Plan ahead so you use the bathroom before a long movie or job interview.
3. Perform Kegel exercises. Pelvic muscle exercises can dramatically strengthen your muscles and stop leakage and sudden urges. You just tighten and release your pelvic floor muscles as though you were stopping a stream of urine. Your doctor can provide more specific instructions, or you can read about them online.
4. Stay hydrated. Keep drinking plenty of water. Dehydration causes additional health issues and diluted urine is gentler on your bladder. Just like with bathroom trips, you may want to time your fluid consumption to avoid disrupting important activities.
5. Avoid irritants. Some people get relief from OAB by cutting down on substances like caffeine, alcohol and artificial sweeteners. It also helps to get regular exercise and eat a lot of fiber.
6. Use absorbent products. Incontinence pads and other devices can reduce your worries about leakage. Protect your skin by changing them at least once a day. You can shop online from the privacy of your own home and find many options to help you get the best fit.
Medical Treatments for Incontinence
1. Start with drug therapy. If you need more help than the suggestions above, your doctor will probably start you on prescription medications, depending on the cause of your incontinence. OAB is often treated with drugs that block bladder contractions. You may also be advised to stop taking certain medications, including diuretics.
2. Try electrical stimulation. Your doctor may also recommend strengthening the nerves and muscles of your pelvic floor and bladder through mild electrical stimulation. This is usually performed by a physical therapist or nurse specialist. Most patients say that it’s painless but you may feel some tightening or tingling.
3. Consider surgery. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed. There are a variety of options available, including minimally invasive same-day procedures.
Stay dry and enjoy life by taking steps to manage your incontinence. If you’re unable to regain control of your bladder through behavioral changes alone, talk with your doctor about finding the right treatment plan for you.