When it comes to personal health problems, few can cause as much embarrassment as incontinence. Defined as the inability to control the bodily functions of urination or defecation, incontinence happens more frequently than those who suffer from the condition believe. In fact, approximately 25 million Americans deal with incontinence on a daily basis.
While the majority of those dealing with the condition are women, incontinence can affect both sexes, and should never be considered either a normal part of growing older or a condition that you need to live with. There are several methods of treatment, and the sooner you talk with a doctor, the faster you can begin dealing with incontinence.
Taking the First Step
When dealing with incontinence, admitting you have a problem is the first step towards getting the treatment you need. However, many people who suffer from incontinence find it incredibly hard to admit they have a problem with either themselves or their doctor. Studies have shown that most women who suffer from incontinence wait an average of six years before they get diagnosed.
Remember you’re not alone when it comes to dealing with incontinence, and by taking the step to call your primary doctor, you can begin to get your life back. Once you discuss your condition, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as a urogynecologist, gynecologist, or urologist to receive treatment. When first discussing incontinence, ask your doctor about whether your condition could be caused by medications, a health condition, or your diet.
Types of Incontinence
Prior to receiving treatment to deal with incontinence, your doctor must first understand what type of condition you’re dealing with and what’s its underlying cause. Obesity in both men and women, menopause and childbirth in women and prostate problems in men can cause incontinence.
In cases where a sudden laugh, cough, or sneeze causes you to release urine, your incontinence is probably due to stress. In cases of urge incontinence, you may experience a sudden urge to urinate prior to leakage occurring. Frequent urination and urgency can also indicate an overactive bladder. The most common types of urinary incontinence are urge and stress, which can both manifest in some patients.
What to Expect at the Doctor
When you first discuss your incontinence with a doctor, expect questions about the history of your symptoms, what medications you take, your overall health, and about when you most frequently have accidents. Your doctor will perform a medical examination to help diagnose your condition, and you may need to start keeping a record of every time you go or have an accident.
Your doctor may also order a number of tests designed to evaluate your condition and to rule out any potential medical conditions. Your doctor may order tests that check for infections, kidney stones, and even a bladder stress test to determine if your urinary system is working correctly.
Once your doctor has determined the cause of incontinence, there are several treatment options available. They include:
- Kegels. Exercises designed to work the pelvic floor muscles, Kegels can help strengthen the same muscles your body uses to start and stop the flow of urination. To perform the exercise, squeeze and hold the muscle group for 10 seconds before releasing it. Try to perform between 10 and 20 Kegels a day to receive the biggest benefit.
- Retrain your bladder. In order to retrain your bladder, you need to schedule the times of day when you use the bathroom. By limiting yourself to using the facilities as specific times of the day (such as every 90 minutes), you can retrain the body to only go at regular intervals throughout the day. In instances where you need to go prior to a scheduled time, try using relaxation techniques or Kegels exercises until the urge passes. Given enough time, you’ll be able to train your body to go less frequently and extend the times between breaks.
Medication. In cases of incontinence due to an overactive bladder, a number of medications can help deal with the problem. Drugs such as anticholinergics can deal with controlling contractions of the bladder, and tricyclic antidepressants can help to relax bladder muscles. However, these types of medications do carry side effects and do not work for all individuals suffering from incontinence.