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Ask The Doc: How Can I Stop Incontinence As I Age?

QUESTION: AS I’VE GOTTEN OLDER, I’VE NOTICED THAT I MORE FREQUENTLY HAVE TROUBLE WITH BLADDER LEAKS AND FIND MYSELF HAVING MORE ACCIDENTS THAN I USED TO. HOW CAN I STOP OR PREVENT INCONTINENCE AS I GROW OLDER?

Ask the Expert

Answer: Leaky bladders are common, but not normal.

Experiencing a leaky bladder as you age is a common occurrence. Many people find that they are either running to the bathroom much more often (or in a rush), or unable to “hold it” like they used to. This can result in embarrassing leaks and extra piles of laundry.

As you age, a number of forces can work against you to cause bladder leaks. A weakened pelvic floor (due to gravity or pelvic floor trauma), leaks due to an overactive bladder, or prostate problems can all contribute to incontinence. And while these may all be common occurrences, it doesn’t make them normal, and they shouldn’t be ignored.

RISKS OF INCONTINENCE IN OLDER ADULTS.

Having bladder leaks at any age can be frustrating, but in older adults, it can actually be dangerous.

Older adults are more likely to fall when trying to make it to the bathroom on time. And when you’re older, a fall can lead to other complications.

And people with incontinence are more likely to experience a decline in mental health and an increase in psychological distress and depression, something that older adults may already be at a greater risk for.

Beyond these issues, incontinence is just plain annoying. No one, young or old, likes to experience an accident. For this reason, and the ones listed above, incontinence should always be addressed and should never be brushed off as “normal”. If your doctor tries to tell you that your bladder leaks are normal, find a new doctor.

WAYS TO PREVENT INCONTINENCE.

Incontinence may not always be able to be prevented in some cases, but it’s important to know that a healthy lifestyle may help. Below are a few ways that can help prevent (or reduce) symptoms of incontinence as you age:

  • Maintain a healthy weight – extra body weight can strain your pelvic floor muscles, making them weaker.
  • Stay Active – it’s back to those pelvic floor muscles again – keeping your core and pelvic floor muscles strong can help to prevent bladder leaks. A physical therapist specialized in the pelvic floor can help you in identifying these muscles, and can show you moves to strengthen them.
  • Stay Hydrated – Making sure you’re drinking enough water is important for a whole host of reasons, but if you’re prone to bladder leaks, it can be even more important. Becoming dehydrated concentrates your urine, leading to bladder irritation. And, dehydration can make it harder to pass a bowel movement, or lead to constipation, both of which can compromise your pelvic floor strength. (Click here for some easy ways to consumer more water.)
  • Don’t smoke – chronic coughing puts pressure on the pelvic floor and can lead to weakness, and ultimately, incontinence.
  • Watch out for UTIs – Urinary tract infections can irritate the bladder and lead to leaks. Talk to a doctor about getting an antibiotic to treat UTIs as soon as you experience them.
  • Practice good toilet habits – Always make sure to go when your bladder is full, avoid becoming constipated, don’t strain when passing a bowel movement, and use the correct posture when using the toilet.

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.

The most important thing to do if you’re already experiencing incontinence is to talk to a doctor. Your doctor can help you find a treatment that will work for you. There are many to choose from so you’re sure to find something that fits with your lifestyle, and may include things such as absorbent products, to medication, Botox for your bladder (yes, that exists!) or even surgery. But all of those start with a discussion, so don’t be afraid to bring it up at your next appointment.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

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