Urinary incontinence. It affects one in three women, but most of us prefer to ignore it out of fear or embarrassment. Unfortunately, urinary incontinence can make it very difficult to get and stay healthy; after all, who wants to exercise when even the slightest jolt could result in an unfortunate accident. However, urinary incontinence is not something that you should ignore; if left untreated, it could worsen and lead to other complications, including frequent yeast infections.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
There are two major types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
• Stress incontinence is when the bladder involuntarily leaks urine under stress, such as when you cough or run. This type of incontinence is very common in women and is usually caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles. The amount of leakage could be very small or very large depending on several factors, including the amount of urine in the bladder, the amount of pressure, and the overall condition of the pelvic floor muscles.
• Urge incontinence is when you feel a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate; this urge is usually not related to stress on the bladder. Urge incontinence can occur at any time, and certain medications and emotional states can make the condition worse. The amount of urine loss tends to be larger because the bladder can contract and empty all at once.
Other types of urinary incontinence include overactive bladder, which causes frequent urination; overflow incontinence, where the bladder does not empty properly causing it to refill too quickly; and functional incontinence, where a physical or mental condition prevents someone from recognizing when they need to urinate.
Coping with Urinary Incontinence
There are several methods for coping with urinary incontinence, from minor lifestyle changes to surgery.
Talk to your doctor!
It’s important that you consult with your doctor before trying any other remedies. Your doctor can help you determine which type of urinary incontinence you have, and what will be most effective in treating and managing your condition. Depending on your type of urinary incontinence, your doctor could recommend one or more of the following:
• Pelvic floor exercises. Also known as Kegels, these exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles so that you can hold your urine better. Pelvic floor exercises can also reduce the sense of urinary urgency. The hardest part of doing Kegels is identifying and contracting the right muscles. The best way to do this is to try to stop your urine mid-stream. However, you should not do this too often because it can put you at risk for a UTI. Once you have identified which muscles stop the stream, concentrate on contracting and holding those muscles several times a day, when you are not urinating.
• Staying hydrated, but not too hydrated. You should avoid drinking too many fluids in the late afternoons – especially if you have issues with incontinence overnight. However, you should not avoid fluids altogether because fluids dilute the urine. If your urine is too concentrated, it can actually make the urge to go worse. Concentrate on getting at least six glasses of water during the day, and taper off in the evening. You should also avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can make urinary incontinence worse.
• Use incontinence products. Depending on your amount of leakage, you can use anything from a slim pad to full-coverage underwear. The good news is that incontinence products have come a long way, so they are more discrete and easier to use than before. Avoid using menstrual products because although they are great for catching liquids, they are not designed to neutralize the urine odor. Incontinence products won’t stop the incontinence, but they will stop embarrassing accidents.
• Pelvic mesh/pelvic sling surgery. Also called transvaginal mesh, this type of surgery inserts a mesh or sling to support the pelvic floor muscles. This type of surgery is often used when the pelvic floor muscles are too damaged to be strengthened through exercise. This type of surgery is controversial because some women have reported complications after having the surgery. In fact, there is even a transvaginal mesh lawsuit that addresses the issue. However, if your type of incontinence does not respond to other methods, your doctor might recommend surgery to correct your issue.
• Medications. There are several medications that are used to treat the different types of urinary incontinence, and most of them work to relax the muscles in the bladder wall and prevent involuntary contractions. Most of them are available by prescription, but one is available over the counter. However, you should talk with your doctor before trying the over the counter medication, to ensure that it’s the right solution for you.