Don’t Be Embarrassed About Incontinence
Do you recognize this sign? Whenever you’re in a public place, you’re scouting out where the closest bathroom might be—just in case. If so, you’re not alone. More than 25 million Americans are affected by either bladder or bowel incontinence, according to the National Association for Continence. One in 3 older women is unable to control their bladder. But incontinence is a hidden issue. Most people are too embarrassed to talk about it, even to their doctor, and feel some personal shame. Despite high success rates in treating incontinence, only 1 out of every 12 people affected seeks help. For the majority of those who suffer, incontinence is 100 percent treatable.
Start with Exercises
Treatments range from exercises and dietary changes to surgery. Experts advise that you start with the least invasive, which involves retraining your body.
The muscles in your pelvic area need to be strengthened, both for bladder and bowel control. Experts highly recommend Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic muscle exercises. Making these muscles stronger helps you hold urine in your bladder longer and strengthens your anal sphincter.
Another recommended tip is to “train” your bladder to urinate on a set schedule, which may help you control your bladder. For example, set a time to urinate every hour and then slowly extend the time between bathroom trips. A similar schedule for your bowels can also be helpful.
Watch Your Fluid / Food Intake
To avoid leakage, many people suffering from bladder control problems may limit how much they drink, but this approach actually worsens the problem. Less liquid concentrates urine, which irritates the bladder, causing you to go to the bathroom more often. For both bladder and bowel issues, drinking the right amount of fluids is necessary.
It’s also necessary to drink the right kind of fluids. Carbonated beverages and drinks with artificial sweeteners can irritate your bladder and make leakage more likely. Similarly, cutting back on caffeine—from coffee, tea, chocolate, and sodas—can make your bladder more comfortable.
Medicines Can Help
Medications can calm bladder muscles and nerves to prevent urinary leakage. Other drugs can help the bladder empty more fully during urination and tighten muscles to lessen leakage. These treatments come as pills, liquids, creams (such as estrogen vaginal cream) or patches.
It’s important to never stop or start medications without first consulting with your health care provider. This includes over-the-counter medicines, which are designed to be solutions for short-term episodes and not long-term management.
If dietary changes and bladder and bowel training don’t help, your healthcare provider may suggest medical treatments. These include Medical devices and Nerve stimulation.
When All Else Fails: Surgery
Only consider surgery after other treatments have failed. There are more than 150 procedures available.
Although experts agree that incontinence is common, it is not a normal part of aging. Because there are multiple causes, there may be no single treatment that is totally effective. An accurate diagnosis is crucial, so it’s important to speak to your health care provider about incontinence.
Source: Society of Certified Senior Advisors: April 3, 2017 Blog
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