Bladder or urinary incontinence is an embarrassing and inconvenient problem that affects millions of Americans, especially the elderly. Up to 17% of women and up to 11% of men will experience moderate to severe incontinence, with rates rising sharply after age 70, especially in women.
The condition can take several forms, but most often appears as stress incontinence, urge incontinence, or a combination of the two (mixed incontinence). Stress incontinence is triggered by exertion such as exercise, laughter, or sneezing, while urge incontinence involves a sudden onset of the need to urinate coupled with an inability to control one’s bladder. Research has shown that although stress and mixed incontinence are most common, urge incontinence is more likely to require treatment.
If your incontinence is materially affecting your daily life, it’s time to seek help. Talk about the problem with your doctor, who may perform tests including a physical exam, bladder ultrasound, and urine sample. Once a diagnosis has been made, they may prescribe you medication to alleviate the problem, which is usually quite effective. Depending on the source of your issue, the medication may relax or stabilize pelvic muscles, or even provide a boost of needed hormones.
Aside from pharmaceutical intervention, however, there are several things you can do to prevent and/or alleviate bladder incontinence.
Here are five ways to address the condition:
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight increases pressure on your bladder and its surrounding muscles, making it harder to control especially in times of increased stress. Your doctor may recommend a regimen of exercise and diet change if you are obese or overweight.
- Schedule Trips to the Bathroom
Consider practicing ‘voiding’ or scheduled trips to the bathroom regardless of your need. This will keep the bladder empty and decrease the likelihood of having to go urgently. If you know you will not be near a bathroom for an extended period of time, like a sporting event or hike, void beforehand to give yourself maximum leeway.
- Strengthen your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor muscles surround the bladder and lower abdomen. They weaken as you age, which can cause incontinence. Doing Kegels or similar exercises will keep those muscles strong, giving you greater control over your urination.
- Avoid Triggering Substances
If you are having problems with frequent or uncontrolled urination, avoid beverages that increase your need to go. Caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks are all diuretics that increase urine volume and stimulate your bladder. Avoid them especially before bed.
- Wear Protection
While you try different methods to address the condition, consider using pads or liners. These discreet products catch any excess urine, staving off embarrassing and inconvenient situations.
If your incontinence is caused by a neurological condition, PPOA’s neuromodulation devices may be able to help. To learn more, call your local office or connect with us on social media.