There is really nothing more embarrassing or frustrating as having an incontinence accident in public! Loss of bladder control can affect men as well as women and worsen with age. It may start barely noticeable and slowly progress to a problem that can severely compromise your lifestyle. The key is to learn how to help urinary incontinence early-on so that you can begin to reverse the process. Please keep on reading to let me help you get started today!
First, let’s briefly look at causes and types of urinary incontinence, and then we can get right to the things that will keep you dry all day!
Causes Of Urinary Incontinence
- Weak urinary bladder muscles
- Overactive urinary bladder muscles
- Weak muscles in the pelvis
- Shifting out of the place of the bladder, rectum, and uterus in females (especially after pregnancy)
- Enlarged prostate and prostatitis (from inflammation or infection) in males
- Urinary bladder nerve damage from things like diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s Disease
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease
Types Of Urinary Incontinence
Stress incontinence – In stress incontinence, pressure is placed on the bladder from lifting heavy objects, exercising, laughing, sneezing, and coughing. This usually causes leakage of various severity, depending on how bad your problem is. It is common in young and middle-aged women that are postmenopausal.
Urge incontinence – Urge incontinence is also called “overactive bladder.” Your bladder suddenly and inappropriately contacts, giving you an urge to urinate but you can’t hold your urine long enough to make it to the toilet on time. Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common cause, especially in the elderly. It can also be caused by medical conditions like diabetes or a neurological disorder.
Overflow incontinence – With this type of incontinence, urine leaks from a bladder that doesn’t empty adequately because of medical conditions that won’t allow it to drain properly like urinary stones, tumors, scar tissue, enlarged prostate (BPH), diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.
Mixed incontinence – This problem arises when you have more than one type of urinary incontinence, which can be a combination of any of the above three categories. Mixed incontinence is typically more challenging to diagnose and treat.
Functional incontinence – This incontinence is caused by a medical condition like arthritis or anything else that interferes with your ability to get to the bathroom quickly and toilet properly upon arrival.
Treatments For Urinary Incontinence
Now it’s time to look at some of the most common ways to help improve and hopefully eliminate your urinary incontinence. A good approach is to divide treatment into 3 categories: simple, medical, and surgical.
Most of the time, you can begin with one or more simple approaches. More advanced or unresponsive cases may require medical intervention by a health care professional. A surgical solution may be appropriate for severe cases or people who have not benefited from more conservative and medical interventions.
Treatments for urinary incontinence can be very similar for women and men with some notable distinctions. Some treatments may require a specific diagnostic evaluation with things like urine and blood testing, measurements that show how your urine drains (urodynamics), Xrays, CT scans, and endoscopic visualization (cystoscopy).
Ten Simple Things That Can Help Your Incontinence, Usually A Good Starting Point
1. Weight loss is one of the most basic things you can try if you are overweight, especially for stress incontinence. Excess belly fat can put pressure on your urinary bladder and make the leakage worse. Weight loss from diet and exercise can help with other medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes. See Fast Weight Loss Exercises – 5 Easy Ways To Lose Fat Quickly!
2. Avoid lifting heavy objects, which can put pressure on your bladder and worsen stress incontinence. Lifting heavy weights routinely over the years can also loosen structures in the pelvis that help support the bladder and keep it in place.
3. Watch your fluid intake, especially close to bedtime. Urine accumulates in your bladder as you sleep, which may wake you several times throughout the night, especially if you have urge or overflow incontinence. This is especially common in men with an enlarged prostate (BPH). Diabetes that is not well controlled can cause you to drink and urinate more.
4. Avoid drinks and foods that can irritate your bladder like alcohol, carbonated drinks, caffeine, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, acidic foods, and spicy foods like chili peppers.
5. Constipation can worsen urinary incontinence by stimulating bladder nerves that increase urinary frequency as the stool passes into the rectum. Eating regularly and Increasing the fiber in your diet may help. You may need to take a stool softener regularly in more severe cases of constipation.
6. Pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises are helpful because for all forms of urinary incontinence because they strengthen the muscles that control the bladder and rectum, as well as the uterus in females. Kegel exercise also helps with pelvic organ prolapse in females, during which the bladder and rectum can cause a vaginal bulge that can be painful. These exercises can be done with a physical therapist or at home.
If you want to tighten up your pelvic floor then my number one recommendation is the Smart Kegel Trainer. It lets you monitor your results by vibrating when you are doing the exercises correctly. The squeeze pillow can be adjusted for comfort and the exerciser is rechargeable. It also has a free app that works with Apple (IOS) and Android devices to track your performance visually.
7. Bladder retraining can teach you bladder to adhere to a fixed voiding schedule. The idea is to begin by training yourself to urinate on a short but fixed schedule, like once every hour, and then slowly increase it to once every 3 to 4 hours or longer.
8. Biofeedback is a technique that can help by teaching you to control the anxiety associated with urge or overflow incontinence. It can be done at home with a biofeedback device that you can easily purchase online. It works best if you are a generally anxious person.
It can teach you to improve your anxiety by lowering your heart rate, respiratory (breathing) rate, and sweating (measured by galvanic skin response or GSR). Biofeedback can also be done professionally with a counselor or other health care professional.
9. Relaxation techniques are another method to help you manage the urge or overflow incontinence. Techniques that work best are mindful meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi. For more info, see Mind Relaxation Techniques – A Healthy Escape From Reality.
10. Medications are a common cause of urinary incontinence. Water pills (diuretics) can fill your bladder up with more urine faster, so do not take them close to bedtime or just before you go out. Avoid sedatives (especially sleeping pills) and muscle relaxants, especially before bedtime. Large doses of Vitamin C can also worsen incontinence.
Medical Treatments, For When Simple Things Are Not Enough
If you have tried some of the simple things listed above, but your urinary incontinence has not improved, then I suggest you make an appointment to see your health care provider. You may need to see a specialist, such as a urogynecologist or a urologist, for further evaluation and diagnosis. This will provide you with the treatment you need and exclude any potentially serious underlying medical condition.
1. Medications that relax the bladder wall like Ditropan, Detrol, and Vesicare, are generally effective for urgency incontinence. Vaginal estrogen can often treat urgency incontinence caused by vaginal dryness.
If you have an overflow or urge incontinence from an enlarged prostate, then two types of medications may be effective. Hytrin, Cardura, and Flomax work by relaxing the muscles in the prostate and around the bladder neck. Proscar and Avodart work by shrinking the prostate. A combination of these two types of medications may be more effective than one alone.
2. Pessaries have been successfully used to treat stress urinary incontinence in women. A pessary is a prosthetic device inserted into the vagina to provide structural support to the urinary bladder and other surrounding organs. It is often a good option to avoid surgical repair. There are many types and sizes of pessaries that can be custom fitted by your health care provider.
3. Botox injections can be given into the urinary bladder wall muscle to relax it and improve urgency incontinence. These injections usually provide long-lasting relief but may need to be repeated every 6 to 12 months.
4. Electrical stimulation of the nerves that make the bladder muscle relax has been effectively used to treat urgency incontinence. It uses a “pacemaker-like” device to deliver a mild electrical current over a concise period of time. The device is typically surgically implanted, but TENS units have also been used without the need for an incision to improve incontinence.
5. Collagen can be injected around the urethra and bladder neck in females to improve stress incontinence by increasing urine flow resistance. It is an easy procedure that can be done in the office and typically takes 20 minutes or less.
Surgical Procedures, For When Enough Is Enough!
If you have chronic or severe urinary incontinence, you may ultimately require surgery to correct the problem. This is usually reserved as a treatment of last resort to correct incontinence that has not responded to previous medical treatments or serious medical conditions such as prostate cancer.
1. Surgery to help stress incontinence in women is often aimed at repairing tissues that provide bladder support. Pregnancy is a common cause of “dropped bladder.” For less severe stress incontinence cases, a “sling” procedure may be used to reposition the urethra.
2. Surgery is also available to help men with urge and overflow incontinence due to prostate problems. Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) removes tissue pressing on the urethra and allows the urine to flow more freely. Prostate cancer may require the removal of the prostate (prostatectomy), primarily to treat the cancer as well as improve urine flow.
Here is a video on urinary incontinence from Mercyhealth by Urogynecologist Dr. Sonya Ephraim.
Urinary incontinence can range from slightly annoying to totally disabling and everything in between. Most incontinence starts out mild and slowly progresses in severity. It is always best to address incontinence as soon as possible since it is more likely to be easily treatable with simple lifestyle modifications.
Incontinence that is worrisome or advances quickly should always be evaluated by a health care professional. Surgery should be reserved as an option of last resort, whenever possible unless specifically recommended by your health care provider.
Tell Us What You Think
Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comment section or if I can help you with anything.
- Do you have any additional tips or suggestions on how to treat urinary incontinence?
- What are you currently doing using to treat your incontinence, and how is it working?
- What has been keeping you from getting your incontinence evaluated and treated?