Urinary incontinence: tips

Urinary incontinence is when you have a loss of bladder control and accidently leak urine. There are many different types and causes. If you have bladder leakages, you should see your doctor to find out what could be the cause and what can be done about it.

While there are various treatments available for urinary incontinence, some simple lifestyle adjustments may be all that’s needed to regain or improve your bladder control. There are also ways to manage bladder leaks so that you can keep doing the things you enjoy without fear of having an accident.

Watch what you eat and drink

Some foods and drinks can irritate your bladder or act as diuretics, which increase the amount of urine you make. Avoiding these and controlling when and how much liquid you drink can help improve symptoms of urinary incontinence.

  • Limit drinks that contain caffeine (such as coffee, tea or cola drinks) because caffeine can increase your need to pass urine and can irritate the bladder.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that can have a diuretic effect (meaning they can increase the amount of urine your body makes). Foods and drinks to avoid include artificial sweeteners, chocolate, alcohol and large doses of vitamin C.
  • Also try to avoid or limit any other foods and drinks that may irritate your bladder and aggravate your symptoms. These may include acidic or sugary foods or drinks, citrus fruits or spicy foods.
  • You may need to adjust the amount of liquid you drink. Too much or too little can aggravate bladder problems. It’s best to check with your doctor the amount that’s right for you. Your doctor may also recommend you avoid drinking too much liquid in the few hours before you go to bed to avoid overnight trips to the bathroom.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight — carrying extra weight puts further stress on pelvic floor muscles.

Be careful how you move

  • Choose types of exercise that aren’t likely to make things worse. Pilates and yoga are good choices, whereas aerobics or jogging can increase leakage.
  • Avoid lifting heavy things, as it can strain your pelvic floor. When you do lift something up, tighten your pelvic floor muscles first.

Take care of your pelvic floor muscles

  • Doing pelvic floor muscle exercises, also sometimes called Kegel exercises, can help improve your bladder control.
  • If you are prone to constipation, take steps to keep your bowel movements regular, because straining associated with constipation can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. Watching what you eat and drink may be all that’s needed to prevent constipation.

Adjust your bladder habits

Retraining your bladder can sometimes help improve your symptoms.

  • When you urinate, try to empty your bladder as much as possible and take your time.
  • Bladder training exercises may be recommended to help you to reduce how often you need to go and feelings of urgency.
  • Try keeping a diary of when you go to the toilet, how often you experience incontinence and what might have caused the episode. This will help you and your doctor to learn more about your condition.

Manage bladder leakage

There are several ways to manage urine leaks so that you can go about your usual daily activities.

  • You may need to wear pads or absorbent underpants that are designed for urinary incontinence. Pads can be bought from supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as online. There are many options to buy absorbent, washable underpants online. Your doctor, incontinence nurse or pharmacist can advise you about the various available products that may be suitable for you.
  • If necessary, wear clothes that are easy to remove when going to the toilet. Slacks, trousers and skirts with elastic waists are good. If possible replace buttons and zippers with Velcro or press studs for easier opening and try clothing that is easily washable. Keep your toilet, and the pathway to it, free from clutter and trip hazards and ensure that the lighting is adequate so it is easy to navigate in a hurry.
  • If necessary, keep a bedpan or plastic urinal (for men), or portable commode chair next to your bed. These can be obtained from specialist medical supply stores and some pharmacies.

If you are experiencing symptoms of urinary incontinence, some of these suggestions may help but probably won’t cure it. If your symptoms persist, see your doctor — urinary incontinence is often treatable.

References

1. BMJ Best Practice. Urinary incontinence in women (updated 4 Sep 2018). https://bestpractice.bmj.com (accessed Oct 2018).
2. Dumoulin C, Cacciari L, Hay-Smith EC. Pelvic floor muscle training versus no treatment, or inactive control treatments, for urinary incontinence in women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD005654. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005654.pub4. https://www.cochrane.org/CD005654/INCONT_pelvic-floor-muscle-training-versus-no-treatment-for-urinary-incontinence-in-women (accessed Oct 2018).
3. McClurg D, Pollock A, Campbell P, Hazelton C, Elders A, Hagen S, Hill DC. Conservative interventions for urinary incontinence in women: an Overview of Cochrane systematic reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD012337. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012337. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD012337/full (accessed Oct 2018).
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