Have you ever experienced losing control over your urination? This is a fairly usual phenomenon for many people, ranging from children under 10 years old to seniors. Although incontinence is a common occurrence, it’s not something you shouldn’t worry about, particularly if the condition disrupts your day-to-day life.
Managing your incontinence isn’t difficult if you’ll listen to science-backed health advice and be wary of your condition consistently. In this article, you’ll learn more about urinary incontinence, how it affects people, and find out some tips on how to manage it the right way.
What is urinary incontinence?
Also known as “involuntary urination,” urinary incontinence (UI) happens when an individual loses control of their bladder’s function. Most people with this condition feel a strong, sudden urge to urinate, hence resulting in a urine leak without getting to the toilet in time. (1)
Urinary incontinence is a prevalent condition in the older population, but it remains uncertain that the incidence is caused by aging. Children and teenagers also experience incontinence episodes during nighttime sleep, called enuresis or bedwetting.
For some people, incontinence occurs alone without any other health issues being detected. However, incontinence can be an underlying health condition, such as bladder problems, respiratory issues, diabetes, and the like. To determine the potential extent of your incontinence, you must consult a health professional to help you create a plan to manage this condition.
Additionally, urinary incontinence has further classifications named after its potential triggers: (2)
- Stress incontinence: Coughing, sneezing, laughing, jumping, and lifting heavy items can exert pressure on your bladder and cause leakage. As long as physical pressure is applied to your bladder, this is considered a case of stress incontinence.
Older women and people with sedentary lifestyles are most susceptible to stress incontinence. Age and physical activity contribute to the weakening of muscles in the pelvic floor and urethra, where urination requires less pressure in the urethra and allows urine leakage.
- Overflow incontinence: If your bladder can’t empty completely after urination, you may experience frequent dribbling of urine. Overflow incontinence is more prevalent in men than women as it’s typically linked to prostate-related conditions.
- Urge incontinence: This type of incontinence is linked to having an overactive bladder, where your bladder isn’t full but still experiences an extreme urge to urinate. Having this case of incontinence is unfortunate, as you’ll always need to act fast to reach the bathroom.
- Functional incontinence: Incontinence isn’t just linked to problems in your urinary tract but can also involve other health complications, which, in this case, is known as functional incontinence.
Conditions like dementia and mental illness can render patients less aware of their urination, making them more likely to experience incontinence. Also, certain medications like diuretics promote increased urine production used during the treatment of heart failure and high blood pressure.
- Mixed incontinence: If you have a combination of two or more types of incontinence, you’re experiencing mixed incontinence. Since there are several potential triggers to your incontinence, it’s much more challenging to manage.
Ways To Manage Your Urinary Incontinence
Despite the physical, mental, and emotional challenges incontinence brings, being aware of your condition, symptoms, diagnoses, and management and treatment solutions will help you make informed decisions.
For an actionable plan that can help prevent occurrences of urine leakage and manage the impacts of incontinence regularly, follow these four tips:
- Adjust your clothing choices
Urinary incontinence limits one’s fashion choices. Since urine leaks occur unexpectedly, it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to experience incontinence in public situations. Therefore, your clothing options should adapt to your condition for discretion and comfort and, most importantly, make you look and feel best.
To protect your outerwear from leaks, you should resort to thicker, more absorbent, and leakage-free underwear dedicated to managing incontinence. As undergarments are your first line of defense, take note of the following factors in purchasing incontinence underwear: (3)
- Level of urinary incontinence (light, moderate, or heavy)
- Amount of absorbency required
- Fit and comfort under clothes
- Presence of odor prevention
- Availability of product and pad replacements
For women’s bottoms, stay away from shorts and pants with zippers, snaps, and buttons, as these can hinder your trip to the bathroom. Instead, go for sweatpants, culottes, and slacks that have elastic waistbands for a generous stretch.
For men’s bottoms, Velcro fasteners or hook-and-loop closures as replacements for zippers can uphold a man’s dignity and comfort despite struggling with incontinence.
Choosing suitable clothing for incontinence shouldn’t make you feel like you’re missing a lot in life. That’s why numerous clothing brands have designed specialized wardrobe pieces for people with this condition. When picking the right adaptive clothes, you shouldn’t be able to tell that they’re meant for incontinence and look like regular clothing for daily wear.
- Use products designated for incontinence
Incontinence clothing strives to keep your condition private in various circumstances. While they protect against an unexpected leak, it’s still helpful to have incontinence products to make your situation a lot easier to manage and even prevent it to begin with.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you can choose from a plethora of incontinence products. Keep in mind that these products aren’t necessarily wearable like clothing. Also, due to differences in male and female anatomies, managing incontinence in both populations requires a distinctive approach.
Here are some of the best incontinence products and devices out there:
- Incontinence pads: Much like sanitary pads, incontinence pads are composed of absorbent material to soak up around eight ounces of urine. They’re attached to underwear and can be changed and disposed of throughout the day.
- Penile sheaths: As the counterpart of incontinence pads for men, penile sheaths fit the penis like a condom, which is then connected to a tube leading to a drainage bag. They’re typically made of silicone rubber and latex.
- Pessaries: Aside from incontinence pads, women may have a pessary inserted into the vagina. A pessary is a silicone device, usually shaped like a cube or diaphragm, to support the vaginal walls and pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, urethra, and rectum.
- Portable toilet: If you’re not fond of using products and wearing devices, one way to manage your incontinence is to bring the toilet closer to you by investing in a portable toilet. It’s also suitable for people with walking difficulty and immobility.
- Practice Kegel exercises regularly
Keeping your pelvic muscles strong is key to preventing urinary incontinence. A weak pelvic floor encourages urine leaks whenever you sneeze, cough, laugh, run, and even during your trip to the bathroom. If you haven’t been practicing pelvic floor exercises before, it’s worth adding them to your daily routine now to help manage your condition.
Pelvic floor exercises, more popularly known as Kegel exercises, aren’t just for women. Performing these routines regularly can benefit men by strengthening the pelvic floor after muscles caused by an overactive bladder, diabetes, and prostate removal surgery. They’re also recommended for men experiencing fecal incontinence and dribble after urination. (4)
Compared to men, women encounter more conditions that increase their chances of getting urinary incontinence. Some of these include pregnancy, childbirth, obesity, aging, chronic coughing, and excessive strain caused by constipation. When performing Kegel exercises, make sure not to do them during urination as it causes your bladder to empty incompletely, increasing your risk of urinary tract infection (UTI). (5)
- Refrain From a bladder-irritant diet
Your urinary system does a fair job of balancing water and chemicals in your body. Waste is collected in the bladder and becomes your urine. If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, you’ll have to pay more attention to your diet as they may contain these bladder-irritant foods in excessive amounts:
- Citrus fruits
- Carbonated drinks
- Spicy foods
Additionally, follow these diet and nutrition tips to keep your bladder happy and avoid worsening your condition:
- Keep your body hydrated: Some people experiencing bladder problems tend to minimize their liquid intake to lessen their urination, but it’s actually the other way around. Urine in smaller amounts is more concentrated, which can irritate the bladder’s surface and cause more frequent urination. There are also higher risks of excessive bacteria growth and infection associated with reduced fluid intake. (6)
- Eat healthier carbohydrates: Whole, unprocessed carbs are known to keep bladder and bowel movements in check. But make sure to keep your carb intake in moderation as a high-fiber diet may also cause bladder and bowel issues.
- Pay attention to your dairy intake: Some people can’t tolerate lactose, as dairy-packed foods can irritate the colon and cause loose stool. Hence, look into dairy-free alternatives rich in vitamin D, such as salmon, almond milk, and eggs.
No diet plan and approach can cure incontinence, as foods that may irritate the bladder can be different for everyone else. By altering your diet effectively, you may be able to manage and prevent worsening symptoms. Keeping a food diary and getting in touch with your health professional can help you find the link between your nutrition and urination. (6)
Now you’ve learned some helpful tips in urinary incontinence management. If these preventative and conservative measures aren’t enough and your condition is still a huge inconvenience to your daily life, you’ll have to consider searching for more invasive and long-term interventions to your condition.
Sphincteroplasty, muscle transposition, and colostomy are surgical treatments you can look into to improve your condition. Most importantly, seeking professional healthcare guidance before, during, and after your surgical treatment can take you closer to a more comfortable and leakage-free life.
- “Urinary incontinence”, Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/symptoms-causes/syc-20352808
- “Types of urinary incontinence”, Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/bladder-and-bowel/types-of-urinary-incontinence
- “Your Guide To Incontinence Underwear”, Source: https://www.everydayhealth.com/incontinence/incontinence-underwear.aspx
- “Kegel exercises for men: Understand the benefits”, Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises-for-men/art-20045074
- “Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women”, Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283
- “Can Your Diet Affect Your Bladder or Bowel Control?”, Source: https://www.nafc.org/diet-habits-for-bladder-health