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Incontinence FAQs

We’ve gathered some of our most frequently asked questions about urinary incontinence below. Read on for answers to these common queries.

What is incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is defined as the inability to hold urine, resulting in bladder leaks or accidents. Urinary incontinence can range from mild to moderate or severe, and can happen to anyone – young or old.

What are the types of incontinence?

  • Overflow incontinence. This occurs when you are unable to completely empty your bladder, resulting in frequent leaks or dribbles.

  • Stress incontinence. This type of incontinence happens when pressure is placed on your bladder or pelvic floor muscles, such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, or exercising.

  • Urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is when you have a sudden need to empty your bladder but you are unable to make it to the toilet in time.  People with Overactive Bladder (the frequent, urgent need to empty the bladder) may experience urge incontinence.

  • Functional Incontinence. This is a type of incontinence that happens when something physically prevents you from using the toilet. For example, you are unable to clear a path to the bathroom, or have trouble unbuckling your pants quickly.

  • Mixed incontinence. Many people experience more than one of the above listed problems, indicating that they have “mixed incontinence”.

Can incontinence be cured? Will it go away?

For many people, simple lifestyle changes can help them to treat or manage their incontinence. Others may require medication or medical devices, or even surgery to alleviate their incontinence. Every case is different, and the cause of the incontinence may play a role in whether or not symptoms disappear completely. However, for most people, there is no reason to live with bladder leaks. There are many treatments available and you should speak with your doctor to find one that works for you.

Can incontinence come and go?

Yes. Certain medical conditions can cause flare-ups of incontinence. In addition, the intake of certain foods and drinks, certain medications, and even the weather may cause incontinence to worsen or occur.

Can incontinence cause UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections)?

Yes. Some types of incontinence (overflow incontinence, or urinary retention) cause urine to build up in the bladder, which can allows bacteria to form. In addition, many people may manage their incontinence with catheters, which can put them at a greater risk for developing UTIs if the catheter is not kept clean. Finally, some people with incontinence try to limit fluids to avoid having an accident, however if overdone, this can urine to concentrate in the bladder, again leading to a build of bacteria and a greater risk for UTIs.

What lifestyle changes can help decrease urine leakage?

Medication and surgery are not the only answers if you suffer from incontinence. There are many things you can try on your own that may make a big difference in treating bladder leaks.  Maintaining a healthy diet/diet-habits and steering clear of foods that may irritate your bladder is a good place to start. In addition, starting a regular exercise routine can help you shed pounds (or keep them off). This is helpful since being overweight can contribute to incontinence.

Speaking of exercises, don’t forget about your pelvic floor! A physical therapist trained in pelvic health can help you identify exercise that can help strengthen your pelvic floor to help you avoid leaks.

If you’re a smoker, bladder leaks is just one more reason to quit, since the classic smokers cough can contribute to stress incontinence, due to the continuous pressure it places on the pelvic floor and the bladder.

Finally, many people use bladder retraining as a tool to help them go longer in between bathroom visits.

What incontinence products do I need?

Exploring the world of incontinence products can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. First things first, you need something to help you stay dry. So whether you’ve decided to practice pelvic floor exercises, started a medication, or try a new medical device for bladder leaks, finding a good absorbent product is key, at least in the short term. Look for ones that fit your needs specifically – do you typically leak a lot of a little? Is it all day, just at night, or only when you exercise? Do you like the feel of something that pulls on, or something with tabs? All of these are important things to consider when looking for a product.

It’s important to not get discouraged when looking for an absorbent product – just like clothing brands, they all fit differently and you may have to try out several before you find one that works well for you.

Once you’ve got your immediate need of being dry handled, decide how you’d like to treat the leaks. Are you open to medication? Would you like to try a kegel device? Botox? Interstim? There are many types of treatments out there so do your research and ask your doctor about the ones that interest you.

Can’t I just use a menstrual pad for incontinence leaks?

Absolutely not! This is a common practice for many young women, however menstrual pads are made differently from bladder control pads. For starters, unlike menstrual pads, which are designed to hold menstrual flow, incontinence pads are designed to absorb the rapid flow of urine.  Incontinence pads also hold much more fluid than a menstrual pad would, which means you’re less likely to suffer a bladder leak.  Incontinence pads also typically neutralize unpleasant urine odors, which menstrual pads don’t do.

How does incontinence affect the skin?

If you suffer from incontinence, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your skin. Wearing absorbent products (or anything wet against your skin for a period of time) can leave you prone to rashes or irritation. Make sure you change any absorbent products regularly and be sure to address any irritation as soon as it occurs. Try barrier creams to help prevent rashes, and be sure to clean, dry and moisturize the skin regularly to prevent irritation or infection

Who is at risk for incontinence?

Incontinence is an extremely common condition and affects men and women of all ages. However, certain things may make you more at risk for developing incontinence.

  • Age. The older we get, the more likely we are to develop incontinence. This may be due to a variety of reasons, but the important thing to know is that just because incontinence is more common as you age, it doesn’t mean it’s normal.

  • Certain medical conditions. Some medical conditions, such as MS, Parkinson’s disease, or diabetes, can lead to incontinence.

  • Medications. Certain medications or supplements may contribute to your incontinence.

  • Pregnancy and Childbirth. Being pregnant or giving birth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, which may lead to bladder leaks while pregnant, soon after giving birth, or even years down the road if left untreated.

Why do I leak urine after I pee?

In some cases, you may feel that you have emptied your bladder only to discover that you leak soon after you leave the bathroom. This may be caused by a weakness of the pelvic floor muscles (or they are too tight), leaving you unable to completely empty your bladder. In men, an enlarged prostate can also cause this problem, resulting in a post void dribble.

Double voiding, or trying to empty your bladder again 30 seconds after you initially urinated can be a helpful technique for those who feel like they are unable to completely empty their bladder, or who feel a need to urinate soon after voiding.

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