Older women, men who had prostate surgery, and pregnant women, live with urinary incontinence. If you’re among them, you don’t just have to accept this condition.
“Incontinence is more common as people get older, but it should never be viewed as a normal part of aging,” says Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, vice chair of the urology department at the University of Kansas. “It really is not normal. If we can find reasons why they are having problems, we can get them some help with their symptoms.”
It may be awkward to discuss with your doctor, but asking for help can often make things better.
“Doctors can always help someone deal with this,” says Alan J. Wein, MD, chief of urology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “Treatment generally includes a combination of behavior modification -- self-help things you can do -- plus perhaps medication.”
Here are something that can help:
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor muscles help you hold your urine. You may leak if the muscles are weakened from pregnancy, prostate surgery, or being overweight. But you can strengthen your muscles to improve symptoms.
The exercise that works these muscles is called a Kegel. “I tell people to do and hold each for as long as you can,” Wein says. “Get into the habit of doing them daily, about every 2 waking hours. They can stop leakage or significantly prevent it.”
Pelvic floor exercises can also help if you're struck with the sudden urge to urinate.
“They're called 'quick flicks,'” Wein says. “Relax and contract the muscles very quickly. Many times, that will abort the sensation of urgency.”
Accidents are more likely when your bladder is full. If you drink too much of anything, even water, you might feel an urgent need to go.
Limit caffeine and alcohol, which make you produce more urine. “You'll run to the toilet all day long,” says May M. Wakamatsu, MD, a pelvic medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquid per day. Cut back after 4 p.m. if you leak overnight. But do drink. If you don’t, your body will still make urine, but it will be concentrated and irritate the lining of your bladder. That can cause more of an urge, Griebling says.
A Bathroom Schedule
“You can't leak if your bladder is empty,” says Craig Comiter, MD, professor of urology at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Urinate before you have the urge, so you don't have an accident. If you know you get the urge every 3 hours, go every 2 1/2 hours."
If you have to go too often, try to extend the amount of time between visits. Combine this practice, called bladder training, with pelvic floor exercises for better success.
“Go every two hours this week, 2 1/4 hours next week,” Comiter says. “You only know you waited too long when you have an accident, so this is a home strategy.”