Urinary incontinence is an embarrassing condition that affects more than 25 million men and women in the United States. Many people think that bladder leakage simply comes with age, and don’t realize that the condition is actually often treatable. Treatments vary depending on the type of incontinence. In order to begin treatment, one must understand what type of incontinence they’re experiencing and why. Below are the three main types of urinary incontinence and how to treat them:
More common in women, stress incontinence occurs when pressure is put onto the bladder. A person who experiences this type of incontinence will leak when they sneeze, cough, jump, or perform some other physical activity.
The main way to treat stress incontinence is to exercise the pelvic floor muscles. Also known as Kegels, these pelvic floor exercises help strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine. A doctor or pelvic floor therapist guides the individual in learning how to identify the correct bladder muscles and how to contact them. If done correctly and consistently, kegel exercises can significantly decrease incontinence episodes.
People who are constantly in search of a bathroom due to a demanding bladder that never seems to completely empty may be experiencing urge incontinence. The bladder will spasm, causing sudden and frequent urges to go to the bathroom.
One way to treat urge incontinence is by expanding the bladder’s capacity to hold urine. Bladder retraining involves going to the bathroom on a schedule, say every hour, and suppressing the timely urges through Kegels. As the individual slowly regains control over the bladder, the interval is increased by 15-minute increments. The goal is to be able to go 3-4 hours without having to use the bathroom and having an accident.
Functional incontinence occurs when an individual cannot physically get to the bathroom in time or don’t realize that they need to empty their bladder before it’s too late. Perhaps the person is bedbound, in a wheelchair, or wearing difficult-to-remove clothing, so it takes them longer to get to the bathroom. Those who may be suffering from a mental condition, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, may not be able to know and tell their caregiver that they need to empty their bladder.
For this type of incontinence, learning how to manage the situation is key to preventing accidents. Individuals with chronic arthritis or limited dexterity should wear clothing that’s easy to remove. Use snap buttons and elastic waistbands, instead of hook buttons and zippers. Going to the bathroom every few hours can also help decrease wetting accidents.
People who are bedbound, using a wheelchair, or mentally disabled can use protective undergarments, such as disposable underwear and adult diapers, to stay dry. Caregivers are encouraged to change incontinence products regularly to prevent the development of pressure sores and skin infections. Bedside commodes and those that can be rolled over a regular toilet can also provide people an easier and safer way to use the bathroom.