Urinary incontinence can seriously take the life out of you — your energy, confidence, and spirit. It can keep you from enjoying activities you used to do or stop you from simply enjoying life as you used to. But why would you allow that? Your loss of bladder control is not a death sentence; it is just a condition you can manage while still living life to the fullest, no ifs and buts.
Urinary incontinence is a common problem among men and women of all ages. It is a condition of uncontrollable urine leaks, which may happen when you cough, sneeze, laugh or lift something heavy. It also sometimes occurs when the urge to pee comes too sudden and intense you do not get to the toilet in time. As a result, urinary incontinence is often a source of embarrassment and shame; most people who have the condition feel awkward to even talk about it.
However, that should not be the case. Incontinence is treatable. It is not irreversible as the common impression, even if it is longstanding, and even if you are already in your senior years. Many people think urinary incontinence is a consequence of ageing, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Although it occurs to older people, it could happen to anyone at any age.
If your incontinence symptoms seem to be affecting your daily grind, or if it is reducing the quality of life you deserve, do not hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional. You should not allow your condition to dictate your lifestyle. Instead, learn to live through it, take control of your symptoms, and regain control of your life as well.
Types of incontinence
There are several types of urinary incontinence based on the factors that provoke them. Understanding these types help you determine the best ways to manage your symptoms.
- Overflow incontinence. The bladder does not empty when you go to the bathroom to pee, so you feel constant dribbling of urine. It may occur due to blockage or obstruction caused by an enlarged prostate, urinary stones, constipation, or a tumour on the bladder.
- Stress incontinence. Urine leaks happen when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or lift a heavy object. This most common type of urinary incontinence occurs primarily due to old age, obesity, and pregnancy.
- Urge incontinence. This type pertains to the sudden and intense urge to pee closely followed by an involuntary and uncontrollable leak. It is commonly caused by an infection, an inflammation of the bladder lining, diabetes, or neurological disorders.
- Functional incontinence. In this case, the loss of bladder control occurs next to a physical or mental disability, which keeps you from making it to the toilet and unbuttoning your pants in time. Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and arthritis are examples of conditions that bring about functional incontinence.
- Mixed incontinence. The appearance of this type of incontinence is identified when a combination of two or more factors is present in your case.
Medications and treatments
Probably the most challenging part for many patients with urinary incontinence is acknowledging the condition enough to come and see a doctor. However, this is the most important first step to managing symptoms, especially if they are getting in the way of your daily activities and social interactions.
A medical consultation will help develop a line of treatment that’s best for you, based on the triggers and patterns of your incontinence, as well as your age, mental state, and overall health. You may bring a bathroom diary with notes of your fluid intake, bathroom trips/schedules, and frequency of urine leaks to your appointment to make your doctor’s task easier.
You can treat urinary incontinence with medications, lifestyle changes, behavioural techniques, and more. In some cases, significant lifestyle changes are enough to reverse your symptoms and keep them in control.
Drink just the right amount of fluids
Obviously, fluid intake is one of the factors that may improve or aggravate your incontinence symptoms. Interestingly, it is not as people commonly impressed it to be. While the typical response is to cut down on fluid intake to prevent leaks, it is strongly discouraged by medical experts. Dehydration, caused by a decreased level of water in the body, irritates the bladder, thus, increasing the urgency to pee.
Still, it is not a good idea to drink more than the recommended amounts of liquid in a day. To be safe, you must constantly check your urine’s colour to know that you are drinking enough. A pale yellow colour is usually a sign that you are staying well hydrated, whereas a darker shade of yellow suggests you need to drink more. Otherwise, you may ask your doctor for a recommendation based on your body mass and health condition.
Change your diet to control leaks
Another effective way to combat urinary incontinence is by changing how you eat. Your food choices have a lot to do with your condition because there are varieties known to be bladder irritants, which may aggravate your symptoms. These include alcohol, coffee, carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, spicy food, and dairy products.
On the other hand, there are also bladder-friendly food varieties that may help improve your symptoms. Fibre-rich food like legumes, whole grain bread and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and nuts help enhance your bladder control.
Do the right workout routines
Kegel exercises, which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscle, are recommended for people suffering from urinary incontinence. Strengthening and tightening the muscles may help them regain control over their bladder. It’s a good thing that Kegel exercises do not need a piece of special equipment. You can do it anytime and anywhere, even while sitting in your office chair. To perform the exercise, squeeze and tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold it for three counts, and do it again. 10-15 repetitions of the activity, when done three times a day, can help improve bladder control within six weeks.
De-stress your bladder; lose some weight
Being overweight is a significant factor in urinary incontinence. It is one of the risk factors that can make an individual susceptible to uncontrollable leaks related to stress incontinence. When you have some extra weight and fatty tissue in the bladder area, the pressure causes leaks. Therefore, losing weight lifts the pressure on the bladder and its surrounding muscles, and could clear up your symptoms completely.
Take full control of your bathroom schedule
The key to removing all the fears and embarrassment of living through urinary incontinence is to keep track of your bathroom schedule. You should not come when your urge to urinate is already so intense that it leaks even before you can unbutton your pants. Here are some tips to follow:
- Go to the bathroom on schedule, say, every two hours, even if you do not feel like your bladder is full. Then, empty your bladder completely during each time.
- Train yourself to delay your urination. Ideally, you must do this only when you are at home. When you feel the urge to go to the bathroom, try holding it in for a few minutes. If you managed it, lengthen the time until you can comfortably hold your urine between two or three hours and not suffer a leak anytime in between.
- When you come to the bathroom to urinate, wait for a few minutes before you stand to ensure that you empty your bladder.
Keep your bladder healthy
People hardly talk about bladder health, but it is a key factor in preventing the occurrence of urinary incontinence and controlling symptoms. So if you want to stay leak-free, follow these tips to keep your bladder as healthy as possible:
- Urinate as often as needed. Do not make it a habit to hold your pee to avoid infection and the weakening of your bladder muscles.
- Urinate in a relaxed position to empty the bladder.
- Do not rush your trip to the bathroom. If you do not empty your bladder with every trip, your urine likely becomes concentrated, causing an infection and the intense feeling of having to pee, leading to leakage.
- Urinate shortly after sex. The activity may move bacteria from the vaginal cavity to the urethral opening and cause infection.
- Wear comfortable, breathable cotton underwear to avoid moisture from getting trapped and encourage bacterial growth.
The feeling of shame and embarrassment caused by urinary incontinence can make you socially withdrawn and depressed. That’s why you must deal with it effectively, working your way towards managing your symptoms. Help is available; this condition is treatable. There is no need to sulk in one corner and withdraw from doing the things you love when you can regain control of your life by staying leak-free.
Anytime your incontinence symptoms affect your daily grind, consult your doctor to work out ways to get you back on track. This condition may appear mild to severe, but is reversible with a lifestyle change. However, if an underlying illness causes it, it may be of greater concern and needs to be addressed immediately.