Better Your Bladder Control

Say the word incontinence, and several scenarios may come to mind: having a strong and sudden urge to urinate (and maybe not making it to the bathroom) or frequent trips to the toilet (with or without leaks.)  You may have seen incontinence referred to as “Light Bladder Leakage” and “Overactive Bladder.” Tomato, Tomahto – it’s all the same, ladies!

The International Continence Society defines incontinence as the unwanted and involuntary leakage of urine.

Incontinence affects women in greater numbers than men and tends to get worse as women age. Why us? Well, we have a more complicated urination process and anatomical structure than men, we have different hormones than men, and we experience life events such as pregnancy, vaginal delivery and menopause, all of which can impact continence

The most common types of incontinence are:

  • STRESS URINARY INCONTINENCE (SUI):  Leaking small amounts of urine during physical movement (coughing, sneezing, exercising…even laughing out loud!)
  • URGE URINARY INCONTINENCE (UUI): A strong and sudden urge to urinate, often accompanied by leaking large amounts of urine. Urge incontinence is a symptom of overactive bladder.
  • OVERACTIVE BLADDER (OAB): Urinary frequency and urgency, with or without leaking.
  • FUNCTIONAL INCONTINENCE: In functional incontinence, the patient has mental or physical disabilities that impair urination, although the urinary system itself is normal. This can occur in conjunction with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, or patients with severe depression.
  • OVERFLOW: Unexpectedly leaking small amounts of urine from a full bladder; the bladder fails to communicate the urge to go to the brain.
  • MIXED INCONTINENCE: Symptoms of stress and urge UI together.

While age and hormonal changes are often the culprit, urinary incontinence (UI) can also be caused or aggravated by things such as:

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth (the risk of incontinence increases with the number of childbirths)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Menopause
  • Impaired mobility
  • Trauma to the spine, pelvis or bladder

The good news is that UI is not something you have to “just live with.” There are several things you can begin doing TODAY that can put you on the road to better control.

Below are some simple lifestyle changes you can make that may alleviate those little leaks.  

  • Try not to be a camel or a mermaid.  Don’t over hydrate or under hydrate! Sound difficult? Many of those suffering from incontinence attempt to reduce their trips to the bathroom by limiting their fluid intake—this only makes urine more concentrated and irritates the bladder even more. On the other hand, it’s not necessary to nurse a water bottle all day…if your urine is clear; you’re drinking too much water and most likely running for the bathroom.
  • Know your triggers.  Eliminate or reduce the amount of bladder irritants such as diet sodas, caffeinated drinks, and spicy foods. Food and drinks that are acidic to the bladder a more likely to promote urgency and frequency.  Be mindful of your choices. There’s no need to eliminate all your favorites (chocolate and coffee are staples at our office), but if you notice the urge “to go” spikes after your morning cup of joe, maybe limit it to just one cup of coffee and chase it with a big glass of water.
  • Shed the Extra Pounds. Weight loss, even small amounts, has been shown to significantly alleviate symptoms of urinary incontinence.
  • Stop “Just-in-case peeing". Some people go every chance they get, even when they don't need to. They pee as a precaution, thinking "You never know when you'll have another chance." This confuses the message system between the brain and bladder and can actually train your bladder to go when it isn’t completely full.  This will in turn, promote more frequent trips to the restroom.

These tips are just a few tools that may help prevent or alleviate incontinence.  Try one or all of them and let us know how you did. Remember, incontinence is “common, but not normal.” Spread the word to your girlfriends, mothers, daughters that might be suffering silently. Let them know that there is help and they are definitely not alone.


This blog was originally posted in November 2011.