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Warning signs of incontinence

Warning signs of incontinence

Identify the signs of urinary incontinence early and get it under control.

The Gothenburg Continence Research Center (GCRC) in Sweden said in a 2018 report that if urinary incontinence were a country, it would be the third largest in the world, simply because it is estimated that about 424 million people worldwide are affected with urinary incontinence.

When you see the numbers in black and white, it is apparent that urinary incontinence is extremely widespread and yet it is hardly mentioned in the news. In Europe, it is estimated that 9.9% of the population, meaning 57 million people, have urinary incontinence but awareness programs are scarce, so much so that the Gothenburg study believes 50% of the affected individuals do not seek help because of:

  • Misinterpretation of symptoms
  • Misbelieves
  • Unawareness
  • Shame

Recently we published an article in which we discussed the stigma of living with urinary incontinence and why it is largely unfounded. In this article, we aim to discuss the warning signs of incontinence and what you can do about it.

Understanding urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a term used to describe a lack of bladder control. It can range from minor leakages during a cough or sneeze, to more urgent and uncontrollable urination.

Before we begin, it is helpful to mention the common types of urinary incontinence as mentioned on the NHS.uk site.

  • Stress incontinence – when urine leaks out at times when your bladder is under pressure; for example, when you cough or laugh.
  • Urge incontinence – when urine leaks as you feel a sudden, intense urge to pass urine, or soon afterwards.
  • Overflow incontinence(chronic urinary retention) – when you are unable to empty your bladder fully, which causes frequent leaking.
  • Total incontinence – when your bladder cannot store any urine at all, which causes you to pass urine constantly or have frequent leaking.

In addition, you may also experience

  • Mixed incontinence – a mixture of both stress and urge urinary incontinence.
  • Functional incontinence – when a physical, mental or environment issue prevents you from going to the toilet in time.

According to the Mayo Clinic, urinary incontinence is not a disease, but a symptom. With temporary urinary incontinence, it often requires a simple lifestyle change. Reducing the intake of alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners and food that is high in spice, sugar or acid usually help. Smoking is said to cause urinary incontinence too, as we discussed in this post “Can smoking contribute to urinary incontinence?”, so your medical provider may advise you to quit smoking.

On the other hand, persistent urinary incontinence is caused by other physical changes including pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, hysterectomy, enlarged prostate (including prostate cancer), obstruction and neurological disorder, to name but a few. If left unchecked, persistent urinary incontinence may lead to skin problems, urinary tract infections, as well as having an impact on one’s personal life.

The warning signs of urinary incontinence

Typically, if you have experienced any of the followings, it is best to make an appointment with your medical provider:

  • Urinary leakage when you laugh, cough, sneeze or when you are doing an activity (like running).
  • An urgent need to urinate, which can come on suddenly or triggered by a sudden change of position or an external factor like the sound of running water.
  • A frequent need to urinate.
  • A feeling that your bladder is never empty.
  • Problems with passing urine, such as a slow stream of urine, straining to pass urine, or stopping and starting as you pass urine.
  • Wetting your bed at night.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Bladder infection symptoms, including painful urination.

Questions to ask your doctors

As we mentioned in the beginning, there isn’t a constant awareness program informing us what urinary incontinence is and at what point we should get help.

The NHS.uk site advises you to keep a bladder diary for at least three days. The purpose is to collect enough information to have a meaningful discussion with your medical provider.

The bladder diary should include details like:

  • How much fluid you drink
  • The types of fluid you drink
  • How often you need to pass urine
  • The amount of urine you pass
  • How many episodes of incontinence you experience
  • How many times you experience an urgent need to go to the toilet

In addition, there are also a few points which you could bring up and discuss with your doctor:

  • What type of urinary incontinence do I have?
  • What is the likely cause of it?
  • What can be done to treat it?
  • What can I do in the meantime to manage my condition?

Keeping urinary incontinence under control

Once your doctor has identified the type of incontinence you have, managing it or treating it can become easier. If your incontinence is caused by an underlying medical condition, you can receive treatment for this alongside your incontinence management.

The NHS.uk site gives examples of non-surgical treatments that can be incorporated into your everyday routine.

  • Changes in diet.
  • Bladder training which includes lengthening the amount of time between toilet trips, increasing the amount of urine your bladder can hold, and improving your control over the urge to urinate.
  • Pelvic floor exercises which aim to strengthen the muscles that control the bladder.

Other types of treatments may include

  • Medication such as pills to shrink the prostate for men or estrogen cream for women.
  • Using products like pads for women and pull-ups for men.
  • Catheters
  • Surgery

The best thing you can do is to talk to your medical provider and discuss all options openly, including catheters. If you would like to know more about how catheters can help, follow the link to this post “How UroShield can help patients with urinary incontinence” which talks about remedies for urinary incontinence, the types of catheters available, and how to manage the risks of urinary tract infection from catheter use.

For more information about UroShield and what it can do for you, get in touch on 020 8773 7844 or fill out our Online Form.

Don’t suffer in silence

The most important message we want to convey to millions of people affected by urinary incontinence is don’t suffer in silence because you aren’t alone in this journey. Moreover, there are treatments and products which can help to improve your quality of life. So start the conversation with your doctor today, and chances are you will find a way to manage it exceptionally well.

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This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.

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