This post was reviewed by our Director of Clinical Excellence and Oversight.
Have you ever had that “uh oh” feeling? You know the one: you laugh or cough and all of a sudden you feel a little leak that makes you hurry to the bathroom. You aren’t alone. Some 25 million Americans are said to experience incontinence or loss of bladder control. But the real number could be much higher. That’s because many adults just don’t want to talk about urine leakage problems. Others think there’s nothing that can be done. On average, people live with leaky bladders for about seven years before they do anything about it!
Whether you occasionally leak when you sneeze, or have a more serious problem like bedwetting, incontinence—loss of control over your bladder—can be difficult and embarrassing. Incontinence isn’t actually a disease; it’s a symptom of other conditions. The good news is that there are steps you can take to leak less and enjoy life more!
Types and Causes
There are several types of incontinence. You could have more than one.
Stress incontinence comes from weak pelvic muscles. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting a heavy load can bring on a leak.
Urge incontinence (also known as overactive bladder) can be caused by an infection, disease, menopause, or prostate problem. A sudden, intense urge to go is followed by an involuntary loss of urine.
Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder doesn’t completely empty and the urine overflows.
Functional incontinence results from conditions that keep you from getting to the bathroom in time, for example arthritis that interferes with mobility.
Factors that increase the risk of incontinence include pregnancy, childbirth, high blood pressure, and obesity. If you smoke, it’s time to quit. Smoking can cause leaks and other bladder problems.
What Can You Do Today?
If incontinence is getting in the way of life, it might be time to contact your doctor or healthcare provider. He or she will ask questions, examine you, and probably run some tests. In advance of your appointment, consider starting a bladder diary. Jot down a few notes at the end of the day about what you were doing, eating, or drinking when leaks happened. This will help the doctor recommend the best treatment. Your bladder issues could be due to another health condition that needs to be addressed. Depending on the cause of your incontinence, you may be treated with medications, injections, or possibly surgery.
Here are a few other ideas that can also help reduce those embarrassing dashes to the bathroom. Ask your doctor if these techniques might be helpful for the type of continence you are experiencing.
- Try bladder training. Train your bladder to hold urine for a longer period. Schedule your bathroom visits and incrementally add time, a few minutes a day, until you can go three to four hours.
- Strengthen your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bladder and other organs. “Kegels” are one exercise to tighten the muscles that control the flow of urine. “Kegel exercises” are quick and easy to do.
- Sit comfortably, close your eyes and visualize the muscles of your pelvic floor.
- Tighten them and hold for several seconds. As you squeeze it will feel like the muscles are rising.
- Release the muscles and rest a few seconds.
- Repeat up to 10 times.
- If you’ve recently had a baby or had surgery, ask your doctor if it’s safe to start using your pelvic muscles again.
- Plan your pit stops. Before you head out, try to anticipate when you might need to go. Think ahead about where you’ll find a convenient bathroom.
- Find the right incontinence products. There are many bladder control products available, including bladder control pads, under pads, and protective underwear for bladder leakage. Find the style and fit that give you comfort and peace of mind. Your doctor may recommend a soft tube (catheter) to be used at home to ensure your bladder is properly emptied. Ordering online can reduce the hassle and embarrassment of shopping in stores. If you do receive a diagnosis, you may be able to get the products you need at no cost.
What About Diet and Exercise?
Good question! Food and exercise won’t “cure” incontinence, but depending on the cause of your incontinence, diet and movement can improve symptoms. Are you a big coffee drinker? Caffeine increases bladder activity. Also consider cutting back on soda, tea, and over-the-counter products that contain caffeine. Alcohol and artificial sweeteners may worsen symptoms, too. Watch out for foods that irritate the bladder, such as milk, carbonated beverages, tea, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, spicy foods, honey, sugar, and some supplements.
Be careful about restricting the amount of fluids you drink as a way to manage leaks. Concentrated urine can actually irritate the bladder and lead to more leakage. Ask your provider to make sure you are drinking enough!
A good general exercise program helps to strengthen the entire body. That means endurance training for your cardiovascular health, strength training for your muscles, and balance and flexibility training for mobility. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Don’t let incontinence prevent you from enjoying life and confidently performing your daily activities. There’s lots you can do to feel better and worry less!
Let HCD Do the Rest
We have a wide range of incontinence supplies, including bladder leakage pads, underwear for bladder leakage, and pads that can be placed on furtiture, and our experts can help you find the product that will work best for you. Supplies can be shipped right to your door, and we handle all the paperwork. Our knowledgeable customer care representatives can answer your questions about insurance coverage. Let us give you a call by entering your phone number on the bottom left of the screen. We are eager to help, call us, or enroll online today.