Urinary incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, is a common and embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasional leakage when you cough or sneeze to having an urge so sudden and strong you don’t get to a toilet in time. Although it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. For many people, simple lifestyle and dietary changes or medical care can treat symptoms of urinary incontinence.
What causes loss of bladder control?
Urinary incontinence can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions, or physical problems. An evaluation by your doctor can help determine what’s behind your incontinence.
Certain drinks, foods, and medications may act as diuretics, stimulating your bladder and increasing your urine volume. They include:
- Carbonated drinks and sparkling water
- Artificial sweeteners
- Chili peppers
- Foods that are high in spice, sugar, or acid, especially citrus fruits
- Heart and blood pressure medications, sedatives, and muscle relaxants
- Large doses of vitamin C
- Urinary tract infection. Infections can irritate your bladder, causing you to have strong urges to urinate and, sometimes, incontinence. Urinary incontinence may also be caused by a medical condition, such as:
- Constipation. The rectum is located near the bladder and shares many of the same nerves. Hard, compacted stool in your rectum causes these nerves to be overactive and increase urinary frequency.
When do I see a doctor?
You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. It’s important to seek medical advice because urinary incontinence may:
- Cause you to restrict your activities and limit your social interactions
- Negatively impact your quality of life
- Increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to the toilet
- Indicate a more serious underlying condition
What is the treatment for urinary incontinence?
Your doctor will determine specific treatment for urinary incontinence. Treatment may include:
- Bladder training: Teaches people to resist the urge to void and gradually expand the intervals between voiding.
- Diet modifications: Eliminating bladder irritants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and citrus fruits.
- Pelvic muscle rehabilitation (to improve pelvic muscle tone and prevent leakage):
- Biofeedback: Used with Kegel exercises, biofeedback helps people gain awareness and control of their pelvic muscles.
- Pelvic floor electrical stimulation: Mild electrical pulses stimulate muscle contractions.
- Vaginal weight training: small weights are held within the vagina by tightening the vaginal muscles.
- Anticholinergic medications
- Vaginal estrogen
A small rubber device is worn inside the vagina to prevent leakage.
- Botox injections into the bladder
- Urethral bulking agents
- Peripheral nerve stimulation
- Slings (may be made from synthetic mesh or your own tissue)
- Bladder suspension
- Peripheral nerve stimulation
How do I prevent it?
Urinary incontinence isn’t always preventable. However, to help decrease your risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Practice pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises
- Avoid bladder irritants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and acidic foods
- Eat more fiber, which can prevent constipation, a cause of urinary incontinence
- Don’t smoke, or seek help to quit if you’re a smoker
If you have questions or concerns about urinary incontinence, let us know how we can help. 479.582.9268