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312 9th Street SW, Waverly, Iowa 50677

(319) 352-4120

Urinary Incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

“Urinary incontinence” is the medical term for when a person leaks urine or loses bladder control. Often it is called just “incontinence.”

Incontinence is a very common problem, but it is not a normal part of aging. If you have this problem, you do not have to “just live with it.” There are treatments and things you can do to stop or reduce urine leakage.

What are the symptoms of incontinence?

There are different types of incontinence. Each causes different symptoms. The 3 most common types are:

  • Stress incontinence – People with stress incontinence leak urine when they laugh, cough, sneeze, or do anything that “stresses” the belly. Stress incontinence is most common in women, especially those who have had a baby.
  • Urge incontinence – People with urge incontinence feel a strong need to urinate all of a sudden. Often the “urge” is so strong that they can’t make it to the bathroom in time. (If you have these sudden urges but do not leak urine, you might have an “overactive bladder.” That can also be treated.)
  • Mixed incontinence – People with mixed incontinence have symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?

Yes. Here are some steps that can help reduce urine leaks:

  • Reduce the amount of liquid you drink, especially a few hours before bed.
  • Cut down on any foods or drinks that make your symptoms worse. Some people find that alcohol, caffeine, or spicy or acidic foods irritate the bladder.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible.
  • If you take medicines called diuretics, plan ahead. These medicines increase the need to urinate. Take them when you know you will be near a bathroom for a few hours.

These techniques can also help improve bladder control:

  • Bladder retraining – During bladder retraining, you go to the bathroom at scheduled times. For instance, you might decide that you will go every hour. You would make yourself go every hour, even if you didn’t feel like you needed to. And you would try to wait until a whole hour had passed if you needed to go sooner. Then, once you got used to going every hour, you would increase the amount of time you waited in between bathroom visits. Over time, you might be able to “retrain” your bladder to wait 3 or 4 hours between bathroom visits.
  • Pelvic muscle exercises – Pelvic muscle exercises strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine. These exercises can help, but people often do them wrong. Ask your doctor or nurse how to do them right.

Should I see my doctor or nurse practitioner?

Yes. Your doctor or nurse can find out what might be causing your incontinence. He or she can also suggest ways to relieve the problem. When you speak to your doctor or nurse, ask if any of the medicines you take could be causing your symptoms. Some medicines can cause incontinence or make it worse.

How is incontinence treated?

The treatment options differ depending on what type of incontinence you have. Some of the treatment options include:

  • Medicines to relax the bladder
  • Pessary (a device that you wear in the vagina every day to support the bladder/pelvic muscles)
  • Surgery to repair the tissues that support the bladder or to improve the flow of urine
  • Electrical stimulation of the nerves that relax the bladder

What will my life be like?

Many people with incontinence can regain bladder control or at least reduce the amount of leakage they have. The key is to speak up about it to your doctor or nurse. Then work with him or her to find an approach that helps you.

Source: UpToDate