How to Manage Living with Urinary Incontinence

living with urinary incontinence

Sometimes, it can be a nuisance living with urinary incontinence, but there are ways to manage and treat it. Overactive bladders are often mistaken for UI, however, it is imperative to note that the two conditions are distinct. When referring to an overactive bladder, or OAB, it refers to a sudden and overwhelming urge to urinate, while urinary incontinence refers to a leaky bladder. Men and women alike are susceptible to these disorders, although OAB is more common among women. 

In terms of UI, there are several types to be aware of. There are several types of incontinence, including stress, urge, overflow, functional, and mixed incontinence. In all cases, an individual loses control over their urinary sphincter. Read on to learn more about the causes and treatment of urinary incontinence.

Related: 5 Types of Incontinence: Determine What’s Causing Your Urinary Leakage

Understand That UI is Treatable

In addition to certain medications and diuretics, everyday things such as consuming large quantities of vitamin C, too much caffeine, alcohol, or carbonated drinks can also contribute to UI. It is important to note that these physical and hormonal changes can differ by gender, as women who are pregnant, who have recently given birth, or who are experiencing menopause experience persistent physical and hormonal changes. Hormonal changes and weight gain are the leading causes of UI in pregnant women. 

Following childbirth, the muscles needed for bladder control may weaken, resulting in dysfunction of the urinary sphincter. Even after the childbearing years, life changes such as menopause and a lack of estrogen can lead to UI due to the deterioration of the bladder and urethra linings. 

For men, an enlarged prostate may be to blame, which is why it is important to monitor any changes in your body as you age. UI symptoms may also be caused by neurological disorders such as strokes, brain trauma, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease. To manage this condition and improve your overall quality of life, you can take several steps. Let’s examine some of the treatment options.

Bladder Training

Among the most popular methods of strengthening the bladder is bladder training. This involves holding your urine for increasing periods of time. You should begin by holding it for five minutes, and then gradually increase the amount of time that you are holding it for, until you are urinating every three to four hours throughout the day. Do not be alarmed by setbacks because there will be good days and bad days. Your overall goal may take six to twelve weeks to accomplish, but perseverance is essential.

Related: Male Urinary Incontinence & Treatments

Medication

You can speak with your healthcare professional regarding medication if bladder training is not sufficient to control your bladder. Anticholinergics or Antimuscarinics are drugs that are known to prevent bladder spasms, but are also used to treat certain OAB symptoms in women. One such medication, Oxytrol, is available over the counter. 

Other options include injections of botox into the bladder muscle. The injection relaxes the bladder, which increases its storage capacity. This particular treatment method is recommended for individuals who do not respond well to, or experience interactions with, their current medications.

Medical Devices

In addition to medication, some medical devices can be useful for controlling and maintaining urinary incontinence in both men and women. A penile compression clamp is a common device for men. Although these clamps provide numerous benefits, be aware that certain side effects may occur such as pain, urethral erosion, or obstruction. Long-term use of these devices may result in these adverse effects. An external catheter is another option for men. The device rolls over the tip of the penis and routes urine through a tube and into a collection system.

There are many devices available for women as well, ranging from urethral inserts to pessaries. Urinary inserts are placed in the urethra to prevent leaks while a pessary, a silicone ring, is placed in the vaginal canal to aid in vaginal prolapse. These devices assist you in maintaining your incontinence, particularly while participating in activities that trigger incontinence.

Related: Female Urinary Incontinence

Procedures

When it comes to medical procedures and surgeries, they tend to be targeted at stress incontinence and aim to restore the bladder to its proper position. In most cases of stress incontinence, hormonal changes, pregnancy, and changes to the pelvis over time are to blame.

In terms of surgical success, the sling procedure and bladder neck suspension surgery have the highest success rates. It is important that your medical professional examines the root cause of your UI symptoms in order to determine the best course of treatment. Women may elect to undergo a procedure for prolapsed pelvis to improve UI symptoms, however, this procedure alone will not resolve the issue. For this particular method to be effective, it will be necessary to combine it with muscle strengthening and possibly medication.

6 Tips from a Urologist

After reviewing the root causes and treatment methods of urinary incontinence, let us examine six tips provided by a urologist to help manage living with urinary incontinence and enhance one’s overall quality of life.

Urology Specialists of the Carolinas aim to help you to identify and treat the underlying cause of your urinary issues, whether it’s incontinence or retention. Discover the causes and solutions to urinary retention in our blog and learn more about your urinary health. 

1. Drink enough fluids

Fluid intake throughout the day can have a significant effect on your UI symptoms. You can monitor whether you are consuming too many fluids by scheduling your drinks throughout the day. An individual suffering from over-hydration is at risk for experiencing symptoms of UI or OAB and should be monitored accordingly.

2. Empty bladder regularly

If you hold your urine, you can negatively impact your bladder and pelvic floor muscles, as well as cause other UI cases such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder infections. You should empty your bladder regularly to maintain optimal health and to avoid other problems with your urinary system.

3. Plan ahead

When living with urinary incontinence, it’s important to plan out your day as well as fluid intake to prevent embarrassing leaks and relieve your bladder of any excess urine. For instance, you can plan your days out by noting all the restrooms in the area and by coordinating your fluid intake based on proximity to a restroom. In addition, you can prepare by keeping thin pads or pantyliners with you in case of an accident or sudden urges.

4. Document your habits

As part of planning your day, you should keep track of your symptoms and record any recurring habits. Keeping a urinary diary can assist in the pinpointing of your urinary incontinence causes and eliminate any additional triggers or concerns. In addition, if you are considering medication, note any interactions you might encounter and update your regimen accordingly.

5. Strengthening exercises

It is advisable to perform exercises that will help to strengthen your pelvic floor and bladder muscles. The use of bladder training exercises and other exercises, such as kegels, can be beneficial for both men and women. Since it is imperative to gain a thorough understanding of what muscles you need to stimulate, it’s worthwhile to consult a pelvic floor physical therapist so that you can correct and adjust your form, receive adequate feedback, and achieve your goals.

6. Lose a few pounds

Weight changes are a major cause of urinary incontinence. This can be attributed to an increase or decrease in specific hormones, a proper diet, and physical changes in the pelvic area. The use of target training alone is not effective, just as with a physical exercise program. To lose a few pounds and reduce bladder leakage, you will need to exercise as well as eat a healthy diet. There is an association between weight gain and other diseases and disorders that can cause UI, such as diabetes and prediabetes.

Managing UI with a Urologist

Living with urinary incontinence can be very difficult, but with proper treatment and maintenance, you will be able to achieve a high quality of life. In addition to UI treatment, USOC offers a variety of services designed to ensure your urinary health including procedures for diagnosing and treating kidney stones, pelvic prolapses, infertility, and cancers of various types. To stay on top of your health, click the button below to schedule an appointment. 

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