Here are some frequently asked questions and answers on urinary incontinence to help increase your awareness of this common condition.
1. I’m in my late 40’s and dealing with incontinence. Am I too young?
No. Urinary incontinence affects people of all ages, from children to the geriatric population and everyone in between. About 30% of women between the ages of 30-60 have urinary incontinence. In males it is less common with about 1.5-5% affected. As you age, incontinence becomes more common.
2. Some of my friends have had treatment. Will that work for me?
There are several types of incontinence, and treatment varies depending on the type. Stress incontinence is associated with women and some men after prostate cancer surgery. Urge incontinence occurs if a person cannot make it to the toilet in time. Some people have a combination of the two. Other more complex types of incontinence occur due to various disease states like neurologic diagnoses, hormone deficiency and even things that do not seem related like sleep apnea. Therefore, incontinence treatment is tailored to your specific condition.
3. A little leakage is normal, right?
Incontinence is the inability to choose when and where you empty your bladder. It is recognized that incontinence increases as one ages, however you define what is bothersome for you. Treatment should be geared towards your goals. Sometimes improvement is a more realistic goal rather than complete continence, and it is important for you and your doctor to have a discussion regarding what to expect from the various treatments and outcomes they may have.
4. What types of things can I do at home to help with urinary control?
Lifestyle changes are the first line of therapy for many forms of incontinence. While things like caffeine, alcohol and soft drinks do not cause incontinence, they can be bladder irritants and worsen preexisting incontinence. Some people limit fluid intake, but this should be done carefully because it can lead to dehydration, urinary tract infections, kidney stones and constipation. A balanced approach is needed regarding fluid control.
Other conservative therapies include doing an intake and output or a voiding diary to see how much you drink in a day. Timed voiding can also be helpful (voiding at consistent intervals, like every 2-3 hours) since you can maintain continence easier if your bladder is not full. There are also conservative therapies that can be ordered by doctors like pelvic floor muscle training.
5. What types of problems should prompt me to seek medical attention with incontinence?
Blood in the urine can be an indication that something more serious is happening. You should also see a doctor if you have recurrent urinary tract infections (for women more than 2 in 6 months or 3 in one year, and for men 1 UTI).