Do you struggle with urinary incontinence? You’re not alone. Learn expert tips on how to take control of your bladder health and live a healthier life.
Quick facts: Health Tips For Urinary Incontinence
- ✅ One in five women suffer from urinary incontinence (UI) at some point in their lives (Mayo Clinic)
- ✅ Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help reduce UI symptoms (NHS UK)
- ✅ Regular bladder training can improve UI symptoms (Mayo Clinic)
- ✅ Maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce UI symptoms (WebMD)
- ✅ Drinking plenty of fluids each day can help prevent UI (Mayo Clinic)
Causes of Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it can be caused by a range of factors, some of the most common causes include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Neurological disorders
- Bladder or pelvic muscle damage
It is important to understand the underlying causes of urinary incontinence in order to properly manage the condition and reduce its symptoms.
Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence. It occurs when there is physical or psychological stress placed on the bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, vigorous exercise, or any activity that increases abdominal pressure on the bladder. This type of incontinence is caused by a weakened pelvic floor muscle that can no longer support the urethra and keep it closed against increased abdominal pressure. People with stress incontinence typically experience a sudden leakage of urine during these moments of physical strain.
The underlying cause of stress incontinence can be linked to:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Epispadias (whereby male genitalia may be affected)
- Aging (weakness in muscles surrounding urethral sphincters)
- Injury to the nervous system due to surgeries or stroke
- Medications which cause urinary retention or overactive bladder syndrome (OAB)
Treatment options for this condition typically include:
- Physical therapy exercises such as Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor.
- Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight.
- Medications which act as relaxants.
- Bladder retraining.
- In some cases surgical interventions.
Urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder (OAB), is one of the most common types of urinary incontinence. It occurs when an individual experiences a sudden, irresistible urge to urinate even if the bladder is not full. This can cause the person to unintentionally lose some or all of their urine before they are able to make it to the bathroom.
The primary causes of urge incontinence include:
- Aging and neurological disorders such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease that may interfere with signals between the brain and bladder;
- Medical conditions like bladder infection, enlarged prostate gland in men, or constipation;
- Taking certain medications such as diuretics or drugs used to treat high blood pressure;
- Alcohol consumption; and
- Caffeine intake.
Stressful situations can also trigger urge incontinence due to increased muscle tension in the pelvic area which interferes with urinary control.
Overflow incontinence is a type of urinary incontinence that occurs when the bladder is unable to empty completely. This type of incontinence can be caused by a variety of conditions, including an enlarged prostate, neurological problems, and constipation. When the bladder fails to empty completely, small amounts of urine may leak out without warning.
Other symptoms include:
- Frequent or urgent urination
- Difficulty starting and stopping the stream of urine
- A weak or interrupted stream of urine
Overflow incontinence can be managed with lifestyle changes such as avoiding bladder irritants (e.g., caffeine) and exercising pelvic floor muscles regularly. Additionally, medications such as alpha-blockers can help relax the muscles in the prostate to allow for better urinary flow. In cases where medication is not effective, surgeries like an artificial urinary sphincter implantation may be recommended.
Preventing urinary incontinence starts with healthy lifestyle choices. Regular exercise and eating a balanced diet can help improve bladder control. By doing pelvic floor exercises, you can build strength in the muscles that support your bladder, which can help reduce your risk of urinary incontinence. In addition, make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, while avoiding caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
Let’s explore some other ways you can reduce your risk of urinary incontinence:
Bladder training is a type of behavioral therapy that helps people with urinary incontinence, or involuntary urination. It is designed to strengthen the muscles around the bladder and teach better control over your bladder.
It involves keeping track of when you need to use the bathroom and working up to longer and longer intervals between trips. It includes:
- Monitoring fluid intake
- Avoiding bladder irritants such as caffeine and alcohol
- Practicing double voiding (urinating twice in rapid succession)
- Doing Kegel exercises
Over time, these techniques can reduce the number of times you need to use the restroom each day and reduce or eliminate episodes of urinary incontinence due to leakage.
Kegel exercises are a specific type of exercise designed to help improve the muscle tone in the pelvic floor. These muscles, located between your legs, help to hold up your bladder and keep you from leaking urine involuntarily.
To do Kegel exercises, first locate the muscles of your pelvic floor. The easiest way to do this is to imagine you’re trying to stop urinating midstream. Once you’ve identified the proper muscles, squeeze them tightly and hold for a count of five seconds. Then relax for five seconds before beginning the next repetition.
It’s recommended that women perform at least three sets of 10 repetitions each day in order to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles and reduce urinary incontinence symptoms. If done correctly, Kegels should not be painful or cause any discomfort; rather they should feel like an internal “pulling” motion within your body.
Dietary modifications are an important action to take for those with urinary incontinence. Certain foods can irritate the bladder, making urinary incontinence worse. It is recommended that people with this condition limit their intake of caffeine, alcohol, acidic fruits and juices, carbonated beverages, high-sugar foods and artificial sweeteners.
In addition to avoiding certain foods, consuming a sufficient amount of dietary fiber in the form of whole grains and vegetables will help improve overall bladder health. Drinking plenty of water is also beneficial as it helps flush out toxins from the kidneys and prevent dehydration.
Other dietary considerations include:
- Limiting spicy foods as they may cause inflammation in the bladder.
- Avoiding large meals before bedtime to prevent an increase in urine production while sleeping.
- Eating smaller meals more frequently can also help reduce overproduction of urine throughout the day.
Treatment for urinary incontinence is dependent on the cause and severity of the condition. In some cases, lifestyle modifications such as reducing fluid intake or avoiding certain foods or beverages may reduce or eliminate symptoms. Other treatment options range from medications to physical therapy to surgical procedures.
Let’s take a closer look at the treatment options available:
Medication is one of the most common treatments for urinary incontinence. Your doctor may suggest different medications depending on your type of urinary incontinence and its severity. Common types of medication used to treat incontinence are anticholinergics, topical estrogen, and alpha-adrenergic agonists.
Anticholinergics can help relax the muscles of a person’s bladder to reduce overactive bladder symptoms such as urgency or frequency, as well as reduce urge incontinence symptoms such as sudden, involuntary leakage. Topical estrogen helps improve tissue structure and function in the lower urinary tract when applied directly to the vagina and surrounding area. Alpha-adrenergic agonists stimulate nerve receptors in the bladder that may help reduce urine leakage due to stress incontinence symptoms.
Other medications may include tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), duloxetine hydrochloride (Cymbalta), or oestrogen supplements. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damage that results in urinary incontinence or implant a device that can support the bladder neck and urethra such as a sling or artificial sphincter.
Physical therapy is an effective treatment for urinary incontinence. Physical therapists work with patients to create a personalized treatment plan that can help reduce or even eliminate episodes of urinary incontinence.
Physical therapy for urinary incontinence may include pelvic floor muscle exercises, biofeedback, electrical stimulation and other techniques to address different forms of incontinence, such as urinary urge incontinence and stress incontinence.
Additionally, physical therapists can provide lifestyle recommendations to help manage symptoms, such as:
- avoiding bladder irritants (e.g., caffeine and alcohol)
- drinking adequate amounts of liquid throughout the day
- timing urination intervals.
By properly utilizing physical therapy treatments, patients can find relief from incontinent episodes while improving their quality of life.
Surgery is a last resort treatment option often necessary for people with certain types of urinary incontinence and/or neurological disorders. Depending on the type of incontinence, different types of surgery may be performed.
- Sling surgery is designed to correct a structural problem within the bladder or urethra.
- Nerve stimulation and muscle augmentation are used to increase bladder control by stimulating the muscles in the bladder or urethra.
- In some cases, surgery may involve implanting a device such as an artificial sphincter or pacemaker.
The goal is to enable greater control over urination patterns and reduce symptoms associated with urinary incontinence.
Making lifestyle changes is often recommended for those suffering from urinary incontinence. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if necessary, drinking less caffeine, and quitting smoking are usually the first line of defense when it comes to treating urinary incontinence.
In this article, we will discuss the lifestyle changes that can be made to help reduce the symptoms of urinary incontinence:
Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is an important lifestyle change to consider when dealing with urinary incontinence. Being overweight can put extra pressure on your bladder, leading to more frequent episodes of incontinence. Additionally, certain hormones produced in fat tissue can lead to inflammation and weaken your bladder muscle control. Losing excess weight can help reduce the pressure on your bladder, which can help improve both urge and stress incontinence symptoms.
But do not start a crash diet as this may reduce the amount of nutrients your body needs and cause you to become underweight quickly. Instead, try introducing gradual changes in diet and lifestyle such as:
- Eating whole grains and vegetables instead of processed foods
- Trying mindful eating practices like mindful eating or portion control
Additionally, doing regular physical activity that focuses on strengthening core muscles can also help with maintaining a healthy weight while providing added benefits for urinary health.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Limiting caffeine and alcohol is one of the best lifestyle changes to prevent urinary incontinence. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics, which means that they increase urination. Drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol can lead to too much fluid loss from the body, causing dehydration. This can lead to a weakened bladder muscle and an inability to control the urge to urinate.
Limiting intake of caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda, as well as alcohol consumption, may help prevent urinary incontinence symptoms. Additionally, drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps maintain hydration levels in the body. This helps keep the bladder muscle strong and prevents urinary incontinence episodes.
Urinary incontinence is common and can affect people of all ages. It is often caused by weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles which can be improved with lifestyle changes. One of these lifestyle changes to help manage urinary incontinence is to avoid constipation. Constipation can cause strain on the bladder, causing it to become overactive and trigger incontinence.
To help prevent constipation, it’s important to:
- Eat foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains;
- Drink plenty of water;
- Exercise regularly; and
- Get enough sleep.
Eating smaller meals throughout the day instead of large meals can also be helpful as it puts less strain on your digestive system. Additionally, avoiding certain substances that may worsen constipation such as processed sugars, dairy products and caffeine may also be advantageous. If needed medications or laxatives may be used sparingly under doctor supervision to treat constipation-related urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence can be a difficult condition to cope with, especially when it impacts your day-to-day life. Some individuals may find it hard to engage in physical activities or leave the house for fear of having an accident. Thankfully, there are several ways that you can cope with urinary incontinence and make life more manageable. Let’s look into some of them:
Seek support from friends and family
Seeking support from friends and family is an important part of managing urinary incontinence. Being able to share your feelings and concerns, as well as having the help of a trusted circle can make it easier to cope with this condition.
Friends and family can help by offering:
- Encouragement and emotional support
- Providing practical advice
- Helping you find solutions
- Simply giving you a hug
Supportive people in your life can also provide valuable resources such as emotional counseling or further information regarding urinary incontinence. Additionally, seeking professional counseling or joining a support group may be beneficial for some individuals affected by urinary incontinence.
Use protective products
Using protective products is an effective coping strategy for those with urinary incontinence. Incontinence pads, liners or adult diapers are the first line of defense and can provide a discreet solution to leakages. They can be worn inside regular underwear for added protection.
Inserting an absorbent product such as a bladder control pad into your underwear can add extra protection during exercise, sleep or travel. There are many options available in terms of shape, size and absorbency to fit individual needs.
In addition to these products there are also waterproof bed pads available for extra protection when sleeping. Another useful product is medical grade underpads which can protect furniture from minor incontinence leaks during the day. Using these products can reduce stress and feelings of embarrassment and enable those living with urinary incontinence to go about their daily lives with less worry.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms
It is important to talk to your doctor about your urinary incontinence symptoms. The doctor can assess the underlying condition and recommend specific treatments. He or she can also identify any underlying medical conditions that might be contributing to the condition, and recommend lifestyle changes or medications that may help.
Your doctor will also be able to refer you to a specialist if needed, such as a urologist, physical therapist or continence advisor who have experience in managing this kind of condition. Your doctor may also provide guidance on pelvic floor muscle training exercises which are an important part of bladder control treatment.
Talking openly with your doctor is the key to finding the right treatment for urinary incontinence, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your concerns. It is also a good idea to keep a record of your symptoms so that you can better explain them during your appointment.
FAQs about: Health Tips For Urinary Incontinence
Q1: What are some exercises that can help reduce urinary incontinence?
A1: Pelvic floor exercises are the most commonly used exercises to help reduce urinary incontinence. These exercises involve repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles used to control urination. Other exercises such as Kegels, hip bridges, and squats can also help to strengthen the muscles and improve bladder control.
Q2: What dietary changes can help with urinary incontinence?
A2: Some dietary changes that can help with urinary incontinence include limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, avoiding acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits, and drinking plenty of fluids. Eating foods high in fiber can also help to reduce the risk of developing urinary incontinence.
Q3: Are there any medications that can help with urinary incontinence?
A3: Some medications that can help with urinary incontinence include anticholinergics, bladder relaxants, and alpha-blockers. Speak with your doctor to determine if any of these medications are appropriate for your needs.