Education

Dealing with Urinary Incontinence

For many Canadians, having any sort of incontinence issue can feel shameful and embarrassing. First things first – You need to know that you are not alone. It’s estimated that 3.5 million Canadians (almost 10% of the population) suffer from some form of incontinence. There are many online support groups that you can turn to if you need someone to talk to. After all, it’s far less embarrassing to talk about

an issue with other people who can relate to your experiences and are likely going through the same thing sort of thing. Most importantly, don’t be scared to talk to your doctor; They’ll be able to guide you in the right direction for managing your symptoms and ensuring that you can live as comfortably as possible.

What are the causes of urinary incontinence?

There are several different causes of incontinence, and the severity of the symptoms can vary widely. Often the causes are associated with damage to the muscles and nerves that allow the bladder to properly store and pass urine

Some of the causes include:

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Nerve Damage
  • Enlarged Prostate
  • Weakened Muscles
  • Constipation
  • Bladder Stones
  • Side Effects from prescribed medications
  • Menopause (Decreased Estrogen which helps keep your bladder healthy)
  • Childbirth
  • Cancer/Obstructions
  • Neurological Disorders that interfere with nerve signals (Parkinson’s Disease, brain tumors, Multiple Sclerosis)

What are the different types of urinary incontinence?

There are several different causes of incontinence, and the severity of the symptoms can vary widely. Often the causes are associated with damage to the muscles and nerves that allow the bladder to properly store and pass urine

Some of the causes include:

  1. Stress Incontinence

    Stress incontinence is more common in women. During physical movement such as exercise, coughing, sneezing, having sex, or simply bending over - you’re putting pressure on your bladder which can cause you to leak urine. This is caused when the pelvic floor muscles which support your urethra are weakened.

  2. Urge Incontinence (Overactive Bladder)

    Also referred to as "irritable bladder" or "bladder spasms" – Potential causes of urge incontinence include: bladder infections, bladder stones, enlarged prostate, bladder cancer, or injury to your nervous system.

    In many cases, urge incontinence does not require that you visit a doctor, but if your symptoms are severe enough or you are experiencing pain, don't hesitate to book an appointment and your doctor can give you the proper medical advice and/or treatment.

  3. Mixed Incontinence

    Mixed incontinence is when you have a combination of both stress and urge incontinence. This is much more common in women than in men.

  4. Overflow Incontinence

    Overflow incontinence is more common in men. When bladder muscles are weakened, damaged, or there is a blockage, the bladder can become full even though you do not feel the urge to urinate. The most common cause in men is an enlarged prostate. Other causes include nerve damage from diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, alcoholism, and multiple sclerosis. Some prescribed medications are also known to cause this type of incontinence.

  5. Functional Incontinence

    Functional incontinence is when you are not able to get to the bathroom in time due to other ailments such as mobility issues or arthritis.

Options for Treatment

Always talk to your doctor to get their professional guidance on what sort of treatment is best for your symptoms. Your Doctor will be able to help you identify the cause of your incontinence and then make the proper recommendations.

In many cases, incontinence can be temporary. By making adjustments to your diet and eliminating spicy and acidic foods, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate, you may be able to curb your symptoms. All these things can irritate your bladder. Maintaining a healthy weight is also very important to making sure that your bladder and pelvic floors muscles operate properly.

Being constipated can irritate your bladder as it shares many of the same nerves as the rectum. If you have hard stool backed up in your rectum, it can cause the nerves to be overactive, and thus causing urinary incontinence and leakage. To prevent constipation, having a diet that is high in fiber will help.

Treatment for urinary incontinence can range from doing pelvic floor muscle exercises (AKA Kegels) and training your bladder by holding off the urge to urinate and scheduling bathroom trips, to medical devices such as urethral inserts and pessary rings. In the case that your incontinence issues are more severe, surgery may be advised.

If medical treatments cannot solve your incontinence, there are many products designed to help you live more comfortably and to reduce discomfort. These include: pads, protective underwear, under pads, and catheters in the case that your bladder cannot fully empty on its own.