I find it interesting and quite distressing to see adult diapers alongside baby diapers. The fact is…many adults, about 13 million Americans, are using diapers to treat incontinence. It is a growing health care problem that involves primarily women.
Urinary incontinence is the inability to control the flow of urine, or leaking of urine involuntarily. It is a symptom, not a disease. At least 30% of the adult population and 50% of nursing home residents present with urinary incontinence. Despite how prevalent this problem is, more than 60% of people with urinary incontinence will never mention it to their doctor.
It is NOT just a symptom of aging. There are many factors that contribute to incontinence. Some of these are having babies, being in menopause, smoking, chronic cough and even genetics. Sometimes the cause is neurological, such as following a stroke, or having a bladder infection, or certain medications such as diuretics.
There are different types of incontinence. Stress incontinence causes leaking when you sneeze, cough, run or lift heavy objects. It’s common after menopause and after having babies.
Urge incontinence is when the bladder contracts too early before getting to the bathroom.
Overflow incontinence is when the bladder muscle does not work well and doesn’t empty completely.
So what to do?
1. Keep a diary. I know…sounds weird. But if you record what you drink, every time you urinate, the times you urinate and when you leak, then it tells the practitioner if you are drinking too much or too little fluids. Not drinking enough can also cause leaking because the urine becomes more acidic and spasms.
2. Certain foods can cause incontinence. Consider avoiding caffeine (even candy bars), alcohol, acidic and spicy foods, artificial sweeteners and vitamins C.
3. Constipation can put pressure on the bladder. Drinking adequate fluids, eating a high fiber diet and exercise can regulate your bowels and help with incontinence.
4. Kegal exercises (pelvic muscle exercises) are helpful, especially before lifting, coughing or sneezing.
5. For women who only have a problem with exercise, you can try inserting a tampon before playing.
6. Urinate every 2-4 hours. Holding the urine destroys the sensors that tell you when the bladder is full. It also raises the risk of infection.
7. Bladder Training. Urinate every hour for a few days. Then hold it up to 2 hours. Build up to urinating every 3-4 hours.
8. See an experienced practitioner for other options which include devices such as pessaries, urethral inserts, medications and surgery.
Don’t think that you have to live with these symptoms. There other things you can do besides diapers.
Reference: McGuire, L. Mayo Clinic Women’s Healthsource. “Mayo Clinic Office Visit Coping With Incontinence”. Dec. 1999.