How to Cope with Incontinence

Jun 21, 2016

How to Cope with Incontinence

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Incontinence – or in layman’s terms, loss of bladder or fecal control - is a common but often embarrassing problem that affects 25 million Americans. Ranging in severity, incontinence could be a small amount of leakage when you sneeze or urges so strong that you don't make it to the bathroom in time.

The Emotional Toll of Incontinence

One of the biggest problems about an individual or loved one living with incontinence is that they don’t tell anyone about it. This in part is due to the social and emotional stigmas that are associated with incontinence. Since we were all toilet trained at a young age, it’s hard to imagine a time when we can no longer control when we go to the bathroom, but with some understanding, incontinence is manageable.

The thing about incontinence is that it is not a disease, but rather, incontinence is a symptom of an underlying condition. Regardless of the cause, incontinence has severe emotional, health, and social impacts on an individual. If incontinence is affecting the way yourself or a loved one goes about daily life, it may be time to seek out some medical help for advice managing symptoms.

Underlying Causes of Incontinence

  • Arthritis
  • Menopause
  • Hysterectomy
  • Enlarged Prostate
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Obstructions
  • Neurological disorders

Ways to Manage Incontinence

It’s normal to feel impatient, frustrated, and even embarrassed over incontinence, but it’s important to remember that many others are struggling with the same issues. It’s easy to feel like there’s been a major loss of privacy, dignity, and independence, but there are plenty of ways to combat intense emotions and avoid feelings of depression. Incontinence is manageable.

If incontinence leaves you with the feeling that your quality of life has lessened, try confiding in someone with your thoughts and feelings. A family physician, family member, or close friend will be able to console you when you’re feeling most vulnerable.

Women Living With Incontinence

  • Set a bathroom schedule: The goal is to use the bathroom before the urge is overwhelming. If there is nothing in the body, there won’t be anything to come out later.
  • Do pelvic floor exercises: Kegel exercises can strengthen muscles
  • Use wearable devices: Anything from tampons to disposable underwear can make a significant difference in someone’s daily comfort.
  • Shed the extra pounds: Although this may not apply to everyone, any additional weight is also extra pressure on the bladder, which can be a cause for leakage.

Men Living With Incontinence

  • Bladder training: To do this, schedule bathroom breaks—Even when you don’t need to go. This will help tame symptoms, and while results many not be immediate, there should be a noticeable difference within a few months.
  • Flexing muscles: To help strengthen muscles around the bladder, tense muscles for 3 seconds at a time, then relax for 3 seconds. Work up to 10 repetitions of this exercise.
  • Lose weight: Excess weight can put excess pressure on the bladder and abdomen, which may be a factor in the cause of incontinence.

Men and Women

  • Keep a diary: Take note of when and how much liquid is consumed, and also record when the bathroom is used.
  • Try urinating twice: Once finished urinating, wait a minute or so and then try again.
  • Eliminate alcohol and caffeine: If not eliminated entirely, at least cut down a bit. Alcohol and caffeine can irritate the bladder, which could worsen already present symptoms.

Dealing With Denial

Living with incontinence can result in feelings of intense anxiety and social isolation, so the most effective means of coping is to address the symptoms directly. If you’re experiencing body smells that your nose has adjusted to, a trusted confidant will be able to offer you an honest opinion so you can deter any embarrassment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is bladder training?

It’s just what it sounds like! Patients either practice controlling the urge, set specific times to visit the bathroom to avoid accidents, or practice double voiding. Double voiding is the idea of completely emptying the bladder by urinating then urinating again after a few minutes.

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What are the causes of fecal incontinence?

Many women suffer from fecal incontinence due to childbirth that caused muscle or nerve damage. However, damage to the rectal muscle or nerves can happen from the strain of chronic constipation. Also, rectal walls may stiffen from surgery or scarring that may cause the inability of the rectum to stretch in order to accommodate the stool. Lastly, there are instances of rectal prolapse or rectocele, where the rectum drops down to the anus or protrudes through the vagina, causing fecal incontinence. 

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