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Will incontinence go away?

The short answer to that question is – it depends.

There are a few different types of urinary incontinence, caused by different issues.

So, if the cause is a short-term issue, such as a urinary tract infection, then the incontinence issue will go away once the infection is treated.

However, the most common types of incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence (often called overactive bladder or OAB), and they require a bit more effort to overcome – but it can be done.

Despite the name, stress incontinence isn’t caused by psychological stress. Rather it refers to the physical stress or pressure put on your bladder, such as when you cough, sneeze, laugh or lift heavy objects. In this type of incontinence, your pelvic floor muscles are weak, making it more likely to accidently leak urine when you put stress on those muscles. Exercises to build or restore pelvic muscle strength should help provide better bladder control – see below for help with that.

Urge incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB) is characterised by a strong urge to go to the toilet immediately, even when the bladder is not full. Some of the causes of urge incontinence include having weak pelvic floor muscles, nerve damage, an infection, low levels of oestrogen after menopause or a heavier body weight. Some medications, and beverages like alcohol and caffeine can also cause OAB issues.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to help manage stress and urge incontinence, with pelvic floor muscle strengthening and bladder training.

Pelvic floor strengthening

Some of the common causes of pelvic floor muscle weakness are pregnancy and childbirth, which is why incontinence is usually more common in women. But it also affects men.

The Pelvic floor muscles are a layer of muscles that support the abdominal and pelvic organs. These muscles are like a ‘hammock’ and span from the pubic bone to the coccyx in both women and men.

Pelvic floor or Kegel exercises are used to keep those muscles in good shape. A web search for pelvic floor or Kegel exercises will show you how they are done.

However, there are a number of devices that have now been developed to help the exercise process.

EMS is an acronym for Electrical Muscle Stimulation. It has become a well-established method for treatment of pelvic floor weakness as it stimulates the nerves causing the pelvic floor muscles to contract. These muscle contractions retrain the muscles, increase their effectiveness, and improve their condition to build strength and tone, allowing users to develop their own muscle control.

Pelvic Floor Exercisers send gentle electrical muscle stimulation directly to the pelvic floor muscles through a discreet probe to help strengthen/tone or soothe these muscles.

Bladder training

Bladder training can be useful in urge incontinence. The aim of the training is to:

  • Reduce the number of times you need to go to the toilet
  • Increase the amount of urine you pass each time
  • Improve the ability to hold on for longer or put off emptying your bladder
  • Reduce accidents

When you feel the need to empty your bladder, try to wait-2-5 minutes before going to the toilet. This will allow your bladder to stretch a little.

Continue to hold on for short periods of time. Over time, your bladder will stretch and be able to comfortably hold larger amounts of urine without discomfort. Over a period of time, try and increase the interval you can delay.

When you have an urgent desire to pass urine, try and distract yourself:

  • Stop and stay still
  • Cross your legs or sit on the arm of a chair, the edge of a desk or on a rolled-up towel
  • Tighten your pelvic floor by doing a pelvic floor exercise
  • Think of something else to take your mind off it
  • Wait until the urge dies away
  • Walk at a normal pace to the toilet

There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to help:

  • Reduce your caffeine intake (coffee, tea, cola drinks)
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Drink about 1.5L of fluid per day – it sounds contradictory to drink more fluid, but it helps
  • If you’re carrying extra weight, try and reduce it

Like any form of exercise or lifestyle changes, results don’t happen overnight. But keep up the good work, your life will be the better for it in the long run.

Sources:

  1. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/u/urinary-incontinence
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stress-incontinence/symptoms-causes/syc-20355727
  3. https://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/bladder-training-techniques
  4. https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/continence-information/urinary-incontinence
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/training-your-bladder

 


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