Incontinence: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments

Oct 08 2017

Incontinence: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments

Incontinence, the loss of bladder control, is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so strong, you don’t get to a toilet in time. It affects a persons emotional, psychological and social life. Many people with urinary incontinence are afraid to do normal daily activities as they don’t want to be too far from a toilet. About 33 million Americans have overactive bladder (also known as OAB) representing symptoms of urgency, frequency and with or without urge incontinence.  Therefore, whether you’re teaching a room full of 6-year-olds or sitting through endless meetings at the office, getting through the workday can be a challenge if you have an overactive bladder. Making certain changes to your routine can help control incontinence, so you’ll feel more confident on the job.




Wear Dark Colors

You might have to give a big presentation. Or you might just have a meeting with the boss. Either way, your nerves may be especially frayed if you’re worried about visible leakage. Put your mind at ease by wearing dark slacks or a skirt, which will hide small amounts of moisture. You can also keep a jacket or cardigan handy to tie around your waist in a pinch, as well as an extra set of underwear.


Bathroom Breaks

One way to avoid accidents is to go to the bathroom at set times, whether you feel the urge or not. For example, try going every hour or every two hours. It may take a little trial and error to find the schedule that works best for you. Then you can set a reminder on your computer or phone to keep you on track.



If you ever feel like you won’t make it to the bathroom in time, try these steps:

  • Stand still or sit down if possible.
  • Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles three to five times.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Focus your mind on breathing and preventing a leak.

Once the urge has passed, continue walking to the bathroom.


Train Your Bladder

Over the course of three to 12 weeks, you may be able to train an overactive bladder to hold urine longer. When you feel the urge, wait a minute or two before heading to the bathroom. Use deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to extend the amount of time you can “hold it” until you are urinating every three to four hours.


No Coffee

Caffeine helps you stay alert during a long meeting, but coffee also can also irritate the bladder, which intensifies nature’s call. This may be true even of decaffeinated coffee. For some people, carbonated drinks, with or without caffeine, may have the same effect.


Minimize Water intake

While it’s important to drink enough water, let your thirst be your guide. You may not actually need eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. When you do get a drink, sip it slowly rather than gulping it down. If your mouth feels dry during the day, try sugar-free gum or candy instead.


Kegel Exercises

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles may improve some types of urinary leakage. Lie down and squeeze the muscles you would use if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold for three seconds, then relax. Work up to three sets of 10. Eventually, you can practice Kegels while sitting at your desk.


Wear High-Quality Pads

Consider wearing absorbent pads or undergarments designed specifically for incontinence. A variety of styles are available, so you may want to experiment to see which is most comfortable. These pads may be disposable or reusable.


Skin Care Products

If you are using incontinence devices or products, you may need skin care. Over time, urine leakage can cause skin breakdown, rash and redness. Urine on your skin can lead to bacteria growth and infection.

Soaps, skin products, topical antimicrobials, cleansers and skin barrier products can all help if used properly. Frequent washing with soap and water can dry out your skin. Rinses or cleansers made to remove urine may be better for washing the skin around the urethra.

Disposable wipes or wash clothes rather than toilet tissue may help keep your skin healthy. Moisturizing creams, lotions or pastes keep the skin moist. They seal in or add moisture. Barrier products protect the skin from contact with moisture. They lower friction from absorbent incontinence products.


Plan Ahead

If you’ll be attending a conference, look up the conference center online ahead of time. You may be able to find a map of the facility. Try to make a mental note of where the restrooms are. Book your flights yourself so you can request an aisle seat near the lavatory. Pack your medication, extra pads, and a change of clothes in your carry-on.



Watch this first person account from a person who suffered from incontinence:  



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Barry G

Barry graduated from City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology.

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