Can urinary incontinence be reversed?
The term urinary incontinence describes when a person cannot control their urination, to the point that they wet themselves. It can also cause frequent dribbling throughout the day and night. Although urinary incontinence is a common problem, it can be frustrating and embarrassing for those who suffer from it.
If your doctor has recently informed you that you have a form of urinary incontinence or you just suspect it, you may be wondering if the problem will ever go away. The good news about this issue is that you may be able to fully reverse it or at least reduce your symptoms. We describe some of the most common treatment methods for urinary incontinence below.
Consider What You’re Drinking and Eating
One of the most effective things you can do to treat your urinary incontinence is to cut back on the amount of liquids you consume every day. When you drink a lot of liquid in a short time, it can put intense pressure on your bladder and make you feel like you need to relieve yourself right away.
Besides cutting back on the total ounces of liquid consumed during the day, try spreading out your consumption so you go at least a few hours between drinks. Some foods and drinks can irritate the bladder, which can worsen urgency of urination. These include:
- Acidic fruits such as grapefruits, lemons, limes, and oranges
- Carbonated beverages, with or without caffeine
- Food products containing tomato
- Fruit juices
- Nicotine (smoking)
If you suspect one of these foods or beverages are causing incontinence issues, try eliminating it for at least a week to see if this helps.
Small Lifestyle Changes Can Make a Big Difference
Several factors that can help eliminate or improve urinary incontinence are within your control. For example, losing weight if you’re overweight helps to take some of the excess pressure off your bladder. This can significantly help your incontinence! Other things to consider include:
- Exercise regularly: Just 30 minutes of daily exercise has shown to improve urinary incontinence in some studies according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Manage medications: Certain medications such as antihistamines, anti-depressants, diuretics, heart medication, high blood pressure medication, muscle relaxants, and sedatives can all increase urinary incontinence. Talk to your doctor about an alternative if taking one of these aggravates your symptoms.
- Stop smoking: This is especially important if you develop a chronic cough since that problem tends to make urinary incontinence worse.
Do Pelvic Floor Exercises if Female
Your urinary sphincter and pelvic floor muscles help you control urination. These muscles help to support the bladder and activities you perform every day such as standing, walking, and lifting. When they become weak, you can help them regain strength by completing certain exercises.
To complete a Kegel floor exercise, squeeze those muscles as if you’re trying to prevent yourself from urinating for approximately three seconds. You should then stop for three seconds and repeat the process several times. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should plan to do this at least three or four times a day. If that isn’t effective, your urologist might recommend biofeedback to train the muscles of your pelvic floor, which may require a specialized pelvic floor
Sometimes despite our best efforts, we need some extra help to prevent incontinence. This can take the form of several different medications or treatments. Identifying the cause of incontinence is very important so that physicians can tailor the treatment for each person.
Just some examples of therapies available:
- Creams or laser therapies to rejuvenate the vaginal mucosa in women
- Medications which can slow down the bladder from squeezing as often
- Other medications which can help the bladder and prostate work together to urinate more effectively
No one wants to have surgery, but for patients where conservative measures fail, surgery becomes an attractive option to help their incontinence symptoms. The specific surgery is highly dependent on what is actually causing your incontinence.
Mid urethral sling surgery is the most common surgical intervention for urinary incontinence in women -usually for stress incontinence- a form of urine leakage that occurs with coughing, laughing, sneezing, and related activities. The sling is placed into your body under the urethra to support the urethra and prevent incontinence.
Men with incontinence commonly have issues with their prostates. Medications or minor procedures can significantly help these symptoms. Rarely, men may have significant incontinence after major pelvic surgery. For these patients, one common option is an artificial urinary sphincter. This implanted device compresses a man’s urethra like a gentle cuff, keeping his urine from leaking, until he wants to urinate by pressing a small button which is implanted in his scrotum. This allows him to urinate when he wants to, and hold back when he doesn’t.
For urgency-type incontinence that medications stop working for, minor in-office procedures can help this, including an injection of botox into the bladder, or, a procedure which can help re-wire the nerves leading to your bladder called an interstim neuromodulator. This interstim device is placed with tiny needles (like acupuncture) into your back and attached to a battery under your skin, this helps to slow down your bladder and stop your incontinence.
You don’t have to suffer if you have urinary incontinence. Your first step in taking back control of your life is as simple as asking your doctor for a referral to a local urologist.
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