Incontinence is a condition when there is a problem with the nerves and muscles that assist the bladder in holding or releasing urine. This leads to a loss of control of your bladder resulting in small or large leaks of urine. It is an embarrassing condition for many.
Many factors lead to a lack of bladder control, including medical conditions, prescribed medication and certain foods or drinks.
The main signs and symptoms of incontinence are:
- Wetting the bed at night – this could be completely wetting your clothing and bed sheets or just waking up with damp underwear.
- Changes in bowel movements – you could be experiencing a change in the frequency of toilet trips or having accidents.
- Uncontrollable urine leaks – when you notice you urinate without wanting to. You may feel that your underwear is wet, or there may be a damp patch on the furniture where you have been sitting.
If you have any of these symptoms, you could be experiencing incontinence. Depending on whether you have other medical conditions, how much you leak urine, if you are doing other activities at the time or how you feel beforehand lead to different types of incontinence. The main types are:
- Stress incontinence – this is where you will experience leaks when pressure is exerted on the bladder from things like sneezing, coughing, lifting heavy weights, laughing, or working out.
- Urge incontinence – also known as an overactive bladder. Urge incontinence is when you experience an involuntary urine leak after a sudden and intense urge to pee. People experiencing this need to frequently go to the toilet (more than eight times a day and at least once at night). You may also need to suddenly pee when you hear running water. Urge incontinence could result from an infection or a neurological condition. A dry overactive bladder is the urge to pee when your bladder is empty.
- Overflow incontinence – sometimes, you may find that you are unable to empty your bladder fully. This results in frequent or even constant leaks. Overflow incontinence is especially common in men.
- Functional incontinence – is when you have normal bladder control but you are living with or experiencing a medical condition that affects your mobility, such as arthritis or a cognitive disease that makes it difficult to get to the bathroom, like dementia.
- Total incontinence – this type is when your bladder is incapable of storing any urine and, as a result, you are constantly or frequently leaking.
Most people have either stress or urge incontinence. However, you could also experience both at the same time, which is known as mixed incontinence.
What can you do if you are experiencing incontinence?
The first thing you should do is consult with your doctor. You need to rule out or determine that your incontinence is not a result of a serious medical condition. It may just be from a minor infection or a UTI, which is easily treatable. But only your doctor can advise about this.
Secondly, invest in some incontinence products. There are plenty of options available on the market, including:
- Pads and guards
- Waterproof bed sheets
- Chair and furniture protectors
- Pull up pants
- Reusable absorbent underwear
- Skin care and hygiene products
Depending on your preference and needs, many of these are available in disposable or washable options. If you have severe incontinence, then you will need disposable products.
What treatment is available?
You can start by trying some methods at home like kegel exercises which is where you repeatedly contract your pelvic floor muscles, or bladder training, where you go to the toilet at set times rather than waiting for urges. If these don’t work, your doctor may try other methods, including (but not limited to):
Medication – this could be over-the-counter or prescription drugs
Surgery – only suggested for severe incontinence. A sling procedure used to support the bladder is a common technique.
Devices – different options for men and women are available.
To sum up
Over 4.8 million Australians are currently experiencing or living with incontinence. So if you are experiencing any uncontrolled urination, then, first of all, see your doctor for advice and to check for other medical conditions. Then, try out different treatment options and finally get hold of some effective incontinence products to help you manage your leaks.