Incontinence - how much do you know?

Urinary incontinence is a common condition that affects millions of people, it is defined as the unintentional passing of urine. There are four main types of incontinence, these include:

  • Stress incontinence – urine leaks out when your bladder is under pressure, such as when you cough or laugh

  • Urge incontinence – you leak as you get a sudden urge or intense sensation to urinate

  • Overflow incontinence – this occurs when you are unable to fully empty your bladder, which leads to frequent leaking

  • Total incontinence – when your bladder is unable to store any urine at all, resulting in frequent leaking or urge to pass urine

If you believe that you are suffering with urinary incontinence, then you should go and see your GP so that they can diagnose you with the specific type of incontinence that you have. It is likely that they will ask you a number of questions to help get an understanding of the symptoms that you are experiencing, such as:

  • If you experience it when you cough or laugh

  • If you frequently need to use the toilet during the day or night

  • If you have difficulty passing urine while on the toilet

  • What medications you are taking

  • How much fluid, including caffeine and alcohol you are drinking throughout the day

Your GP may give you some exercises or lifestyle changes to follow in order to help your incontinence. Here are some steps that you can take to help reduce leaking:

  • Do pelvic floor exercises – doing pelvic floor exercises daily can help to improve your urinary incontinence, however it could take up to 3 months to see results

  • Stop smoking – a smoker’s cough can often lead to urinary incontinence. By stopping smoking you can also help to improve your incontinence as well as many other health benefits!

  • Make sure your exercise routine is good – high impact exercise and sit ups can lead to additional pressure on the pelvic floor

  • Reduce certain foods – spicy or acidic foods may irritate your bladder, so it could help to avoid foods such as curry and citrus fruits

  • Drink lots of water – many people with urinary incontinence believe that it is made worse by drinking water, however not drinking enough water can cause more issues!

  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol – both caffeine and alcohol are bad for the bladder and therefore may be contributing to your incontinence

If urinary incontinence persists, your GP may refer you to a specialist (urologist) to investigate further and look into different options for you. Your specialist will talk you through all of the options and probably complete further investigations to find some answers for you.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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