Building a better bladder to reduce incontinence

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Our bladder – a necessary body part we rarely think about until it gives us fits. Frequent urination, urine leakage or having the constant feeling of the need “to go” can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing life-interrupting issues no one should have to contend with.

Many of these issues stem from urinary incontinence.  Urinary incontinence is fairly common as it affects about 25 million Americans breaking down to about 75% women and 25% men.

The good news is there are simple lifestyle changes a person can do to help train their bladder to keep doing its job without calling attention to itself.

First, it’s important to know the different kinds of incontinence:

·      Stress incontinence

This type of incontinence occurs mainly in women as a result of weakened or stretched pelvic floor muscles due to childbirth. Symptoms include leakage whenever there is pressure or stress on the bladder such as when laughing or coughing.  Men typically do not get this type of incontinence unless they’ve had an injury or had their prostate removed.

·      Overactive bladder

People who have an overactive bladder or urge incontinence are the ones who have to rush quickly to the bathroom due to strong overactive contractions felt in the bladder. They have to deal with a frequent urge to urinate or have excessively frequent urination. The causes of this condition range from an enlarged prostate in men, changes to the bladder lining or bladder muscle in postmenopausal women or a chronic neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis.

·      Overflow incontinence

If the bladder is not emptying completely, then there is no room for additional urine to be added.  This is due to either a blockage or the bladder is affected by a neurological disorder or a medication side effect.  Men with an enlarged prostate are the main victims of this type of incontinence with symptoms of frequent leakage or a feeling of lower-belly fullness. It also increases the chance of a bladder infection since the urine stays in the bladder for longer periods of time.

What can be done?

Here are tips to try to train your bladder to prevent incontinence:

·      Try timed voiding or urinating on a regular schedule.  Have certain times of the day, such as right after eating a meal, to automatically use the restroom for urinating.

·      Try bladder guarding.  This is on the same line as timed voiding except that it teaches a person to deal with triggers that may cause them to want to urinate such as hearing the sound of water running.  When this happens, squeeze your muscles to hold in urine sending a message to the brain to wait. 

·      Control fluid intake – the more fluid you drink, the more likely you’ll have the urge to go.

·      Reduce pressure on the bladder by controlling coughing.

·      Minimize bladder irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages.

·      Do Kegel exercises faithfully.  This involves squeezing and releasing the muscles used to hold in urine.  It is particularly helpful for those with an overactive bladder and if done regularly, may bring about a 75-100% improvement.

·      Some people will need the help of a prescribed medication.  Depending on what type of incontinence a person has, will determine what type of medication is best.

·      When all else fails, other possible but more invasive solutions might include injections of Botox, a procedure called sacral neuromodulation or surgery.