Treatment, Incontinence, Menopause, Childbirth,

Understanding Incontinence

Knowledge is power when it comes to medical conditions. Urinary incontinence is no exception. Incontinence comes in many forms. From a few leaks post-pregnancy to a complete loss of bladder control. It’s important to remember that this condition is not a disease; rather it’s a symptom. It’s necessary to become familiar with the different forms so you know which treatment to seek. To get you started here is a brief summary of the five types of adult incontinence, according to the Mayo Clinic, along with possible treatment options.

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common form of incontinence, affecting nearly 15 million women just in the United States. It occurs when physical activity, such as coughing, sneezing or lifting heavy objects, puts pressure on your bladder. The primary cause is due to weak pelvic floor muscles. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are all contributing factors. This explains why more women are affected than men. Obesity and smoking are also risk factors.

Treatments: The good news is that it’s also the easiest to treat. People who lose weight and use exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles notice a remarkable improvement. Try the pelvic floor exercises on the Carin app. Following the Carin program for 10 minutes a day over a four to six week period will noticeably strengthen pelvic floor muscles, decreasing leaks even after the second week.

Urge Incontinence

You have urge incontinence when “you have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine,” according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s the “I always have to go” feeling that often wakes you up during the night. The cause could be something minor, such as an infection, or a sign that the bladder’s nerves are damaged by something more severe like diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. Risk factors for this condition are women who have had a C-section or other pelvic surgery, obesity, and those suffering from frequent urinary tract infections.

Treatments: Timed voiding and bladder training are two possible techniques to curb urge incontinence. With timed voiding you record the times that you urinate and when you leak urine on a chart. Eventually you can establish patterns and know when you should be going to the bathroom ahead of time. You can also train your bladder by planning to use the bathroom once an hour. Then you stretch it to once every 90 minutes and eventually stretch it so you can wait three to four hours between bathroom visits. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and weight loss will also help with this type of incontinence.

Overflow Incontinence

If you experience a frequent dribble of urine even when you don’t have the urge to urinate, you may have overflow incontinence, which occurs when your bladder doesn’t completely empty.  Unlike stress and urge incontinence, overflow incontinence is more common in men than women. Usually an enlarged prostate is the cause, but it could also be due to nerve damage, a blockage of the urethra, medications, or weak bladder muscles.

Treatments: Treating this type of incontinence is difficult, but certain types of medication can relax the muscle at the base of the urethra, allowing urine to pass from the bladder. If medications do not help, it may be necessary to insert a catheter in the urethra that will allow the bladder to empty completely.

Functional Incontinence

This type occurs when you know that you need to go to the bathroom but may not be able to get there in time due to physical or mental limitations. It is more common in elderly people and is associated with conditions that affect the elderly such as dementia, arthritis, or even unwillingness to use the toilet due to depression or anxiety.

Treatments include those mentioned earlier – bladder training, pelvic floor exercises, and setting up a schedule for bathroom trips. There are ways to reduce accidents. Make sure you wear clothing that is easy to remove, and the path to the bathroom is uncluttered. Always know where the bathrooms are whenever you are outside your home and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Mixed Incontinence

As the name suggests this type is a mixture, usually a combination of stress and urge incontinence. The causes are also similar – childbirth, pregnancy, and damage to the nerves of the bladder due to surgeries or diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.

Treatments: Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is key, but other methods such as bladder training and timed voiding can also help.

Most people feel uncomfortable talking about incontinence. They may be embarrassed or consider it just a normal part of aging. Nearly everyone on the planet will have some form of incontinence at some point during his or her life so there’s no need for embarrassment. You are not alone. Help is available, but it’s important to talk with your doctor to identify what type you have and plan a course of treatment together.

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