Incontinence: What It Is and How to Manage It

Women should not have to live with incontinence, be sure to research your solutions.

About 20 million American women have urinary incontinence, an inability to control the bladder. They’re more likely to get it after the age of 50. Women who have just gone through childbirth can experience it too.

As the American Academy of Family Physicians explains, for some people this health issue means releasing a few drops of urine when doing something physical, like laughing or coughing (stress urinary incontinence). Other types are more severe and in some cases sufferers cannot stop the flow before reaching a toilet.

Urinary incontinence can be managed or controlled in a number of ways. Here are some, as outlined by the National Institute on Aging, the National Association for Continence, and the American Urological Association Foundation. Not all treatments work with all forms of incontinence, so check with your doctor about what’s best for you.

Bladder Control Training

  • Pelvic floor muscle training – also called Kegel exercises, this training strengthens muscles that help control urine flow.
  • Biofeedback – this process help patients learn when muscles are working properly.
  • Timed voiding – urination is done on a set schedule, with prolonged times between trips gradually introduced.

Management with External Actions

  • Absorbent pads and clothing
  • Medication – certain drugs are useful in helping the bladder empty completely or tighten muscles used to help control urinary flow.
  • Incontinence pessary – for women, this small device is individually fitted and inserted in the vagina to support the bladder.
  • Surgery – surgical options include inserting a “sling” that helps support the urethra.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes

  • Proper weight – excess weight has been linked to certain kinds of urinary incontinence.
  • Smoking – women who suffer from stress incontinence should quit smoking to reduce their chance of coughing.
  • Foods to avoid – foods that can irritate your bladder, producing leakage, include:

    • highly spiced foods
    • milk and milk products
    • tomatoes
    • citrus fruits and juices
    • alcohol
    • carbonated drinks
    • coffee
    • chocolate.

At Woman’s Hospital, we offer imaging and surgical services that might be useful in diagnosing and treating urinary incontinence, and a staff sensitive to all your needs. For more information, please call (601) 932-1000.

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