Frequently asked questions about Incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

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

Incontinence is a very common problem. If you have this problem, there are treatments that can help. There are also things you can do on your own to stop or reduce urine leakage so you don’t have to “just live with it.”

What are the symptoms of incontinence?

The three most common types of incontinence, which have different symptoms, 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.
  • Urgency incontinence – People with urgency 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. “Overactive bladder” is another term for having a sudden, frequent urge to urinate. People with overactive bladder might or might not actually leak urine.
  • Mixed incontinence – People with mixed incontinence have symptoms of both stress and urgency 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?

Yes. Your doctor 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, 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 and whether you are a man or a woman. Some of the treatment options include:

  • Medicines to relax the bladder
  • 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. Then work with him or her to find an approach that helps you.

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Nov 21, 2018.