Living With Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is an inconvenient, sometimes embarrassing health problem. But living with incontinence can be made easier, if you're willing to put in just a little effort.
Urinary Incontinence: You're Not Alone
About 12 million adults in the U.S. have some form of urinary incontinence. Women are affected more often than men. While incontinence is more common in older people, it affects younger people as well.
Among the most common types of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence, which can cause leaking urine when you laugh, cough, or sneeze as pressure is applied to your lower stomach muscles, and urge incontinence, in which you feel a sudden urge to urinate -- so sudden that it is often difficult to make it to the bathroom in time.
Educate Yourself About Urinary Incontinence
A number of reputable organizations can help you obtain credible information about urinary incontinence, including:
- The National Association for Continence is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that provides educational information about urinary incontinence, incontinence products and services, and can help you find a doctor who specializes in treating urinary incontinence.
- The American Urogynecologic Society is involved in research and education about incontinence and other urogynecologic conditions. They offer educational information about incontinence and referrals to urogynecologists -- gynecologists who have extra training in female urologic conditions.
Check Out Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence
Treatment options for urinary incontinence are plentiful, and the outlook is far from dismal. About 80% of those who are affected by urinary incontinence can get better with treatment. But, to make living with urinary incontinence easier, you must seek help.
Treatment options depend on the type of incontinence you have and how severe it is. Sometimes a simple dietary change, such as cutting back on fluids, is all that is needed to put an end to urinary incontinence.
But more often, you will need a combination of approaches to get relief. For instance, for stress incontinence, you may be advised to do Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and use panty liners or pads to prevent excess leakage.
For more severe urinary incontinence, your doctor may recommend prescription medication or a surgical procedure, such as an operation designed to support the bladder and prevent leakage of urine, to make living with urinary incontinence more tolerable.
Living With Urinary Incontinence, Day to Day
Besides taking advantage of medical help for your incontinence, there are many other ways to make living with urinary incontinence easier. Among the experts' best tips for living with urinary incontinence:
Monitor your fluid intake. Managing your fluid intake -- say, keeping your daily water intake to a quart or so -- may be all you need to do notice improvement. However, talk to your doctor before making any major changes in fluid intake.
- Pay attention to your diet. Among foods and drinks that may worsen your incontinence are alcoholic beverages, caffeine-containing foods and drinks, spicy foods, high-acid foods such as citrus fruits and juices, and carbonated drinks. If you notice symptoms of urinary incontinence worsen after you have any of these foods or drinks, eliminating them or cutting back on them may make living with urinary incontinence easier.
- Be aware of the potential emotional toll of urinary incontinence. Incontinence can cause emotional distress and depression, particularly urge incontinence since it is so unpredictable. Continue to seek effective treatments until you get relief.
- Plan ahead and plan accordingly.The simplest planning can make living with urinary incontinence easier and less stressful. If you know, for instance, that the stair-climbing machine at your gym makes you leak, try something else. If you know you always shop longer than you plan to, consider one of the many urinary incontinence productssuch as panty liners or pads to help avoid embarrassing situations.
- Talk about urinary incontinence with your partner. Living with urinary incontinence can mean you leak urine during sex. And while that is embarrassing, try to talk about it calmly with your partner. If you focus on solutions, it's bound to get better. Among the experts' tips: Empty your bladder right before intercourse. Cut back a bit on fluids to minimize leaking urine. Experiment with different positions; one may be better then another for minimizing leaking.
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 01, 2007
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