Urinary incontinence is an extremely common, and often embarrassing condition that many people suffer from. The condition can vary in severity from minor leaking that occurs when coughing or sneezing, to having such a strong urge that you are unable to make it to a bathroom in time.
Urinary incontinence often interferes with people’s daily lives, but this does not have to be the case. There are treatment options available that can help. Some remedies involve making changes to your lifestyle habits, others require medications. In severe cases, surgery can help.
There are five different types of urinary incontinence:
- Urge incontinence: sudden urge to urinate accompanied by an uncontrollable loss of urine. Involves frequent urination, having to get up multiple times at night to urinate.
- Stress incontinence: leaking occurs when pressure is placed on the bladder such as from sneezing, coughing, laughing, or exercising.
- Overflow incontinence: frequent or constant minor leaking as a result of incomplete emptying of the bladder.
- Functional incontinence: caused by a physical or mental condition that prevents you from making it to the bathroom on time.
- Mixed incontinence: having more than one type of incontinence.
It is unclear as to what exactly causes urinary incontinence. It can be caused by an underlying medical condition or simply daily habits that you may be unaware are making the condition worse. Temporary incontinence may be caused by drinking alcohol, caffeine, decaffeinated tea and coffee, eating spicy, sugary, or acidic foods, and taking certain medications. Less serious and easily treatable underlying medical conditions that may cause incontinence include a urinary tract infection or constipation. Incontinence that lasts longer may be caused by an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, urinary obstruction, pregnancy, menopause, or even a neurological disorder.
If you are suffering from urinary incontinence, see your doctor. They can help determine what the cause is and what you may need to do in order to relieve your symptoms or help treat the condition. In the meantime, there are things you can do at home to relieve your symptoms.
Tips to reduce urinary incontinence
- Limit or alcohol intake. Alcohol makes urinary incontinence worse because every time you drink because it causes the brain to send messages to the bladder that tell it when to hold urine and when to go. Therefore, the more you drink the more likely you are to have an accident. While limiting alcohol intake can help, it is best to completely avoid when suffering from urinary incontinence.
- Limit the amount of caffeine you consume. Drinks like tea, coffee, soda, and decaf tea and coffee contain caffeine and can increase your urge to urinate. Chocolate also contains caffeine. It may be most helpful to completely remove caffeine from your diet. If not, at least avoid drinking coffee past 7 p.m. and limit yourself to one or two caffeinated drink per day.
- Avoid carbonated drinks. Carbonated drinks contain carbon dioxide which can irritate your bladder, especially if it is already sensitive. This may cause you to have the urge to go more often.
- Avoid spicy, sugary, and acidic foods. Spicy, sugary, and acidic foods irritate the lining of your bladder just like caffeine does. This can make your urinary incontinence worse.
- Limit your water intake. While drinking water daily is important for hydration, it may be helpful to watch how much you are drinking. Drinking too much will make you have to go more often. On the other hand, not drinking enough water can make your urine become concentrated which can irritate your bladder and make you feel the urge to urinate. Therefore, you should ask your doctor how much water you should be drinking.
Dr. David B. Samadi is the chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel.