Welcome to my 3-part series about bladder control! Why am I spending so much time on this sensitive subject? Because one of my pet peeves is how easily our society accepts incontinence as a normal part of life.
We rarely turn on the TV without seeing at least one commercial touting the benefits of disposable pads and briefs for bladder leakage. Thank goodness these products are available, but two important steps are missing. What’s causing the loss of bladder control, and what can we do to make it better?
Today I’ll review the types of incontinence and a few steps you can take to help maintain normal bladder control. Next week I’ll discuss causes of incontinence and treatment options. Finally, we’ll talk about strategies to address incontinence in the nursing home.
Most of all, I want to stress that a bladder control problem is not something to ignore because you’re embarrassed about it. According to WebMD, 13 million American adults experience this problem. You’re not alone! While it occurs most often in women, it can also affect men.
First, let’s talk about a few things you can do to help maintain good bladder function:
Maintain a healthy weight
Carrying too much weight puts excess pressure on the bladder.
Stay well hydrated
People often cut back on fluid intake believing this will reduce incontinence. However, this usually backfires. When urine is overly concentrated, it becomes irritating to the lining of the bladder causing more frequent urination. Remember, too, that not drinking enough liquids can lead to dehydration which causes many other health problems.
Reduce caffeine intake
Caffeine is a bladder irritant and can increase urinary frequency. Some people also find that consuming artificial sweeteners, acidic foods, or spicy foods leads to bladder irritation.
Repeatedly straining while having a bowel movement can weaken the muscles that support the pelvic organs. A full bowel can also put pressure on the bladder.
Perform Kegel exercises
These exercises strengthen the muscles that support the bladder. Kegel exercises are helpful for both women and men.
Next, let’s talk about the types of incontinence. This information will be useful when we discuss causes and treatments.
- Urge: You feel a sudden and urgent need to urinate, and you might not make it to the toilet in time. This is also called overactive bladder.
- Stress: You experience bladder leakage when you laugh, sneeze, cough, lift something heavy, or during exercise.
- Overflow: You can’t empty your bladder completely, and this results in dribbling.
- Functional: You have a physical or cognitive impairment that affects your ability to use the toilet to urinate.
Tune in next week when we’ll explore common causes of bladder control problems and several treatment options.