Urge Incontinence – when you’ve got to go!
If you find yourself experiencing a sudden and urgent need to go to the loo, and don’t always make it in time, then you are suffering from a condition called urge incontinence. This is a very common condition, accounting for around one in three of all cases of incontinence.
The symptoms of urge incontinence
Urge incontinence occurs when the bladder sends the wrong signals to the brain. The bladder normally sends a message at around half full, giving you plenty of notice to find a toilet. Most people are able to hold on until a convenient moment for a bathroom break, but with urge incontinence, the muscles of the bladder start contracting early, making the bladder feel fuller than it actually is and creating an urgent need to go. If the contractions are strong enough, they can override the sphincters keeping the urine in and leakage can occur.
The causes of urge incontinence
In many cases, the cause is unknown. Older people, women (especially those who have had a Caesarean section), men who have had prostate surgery and people who are overweight are more prone to urge incontinence, although it can occur to otherwise healthy people at any age.
Some cases of urge incontinence are caused by physical problems, such as stroke and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. It can also be a side effect of a bladder or urinary tract infection, bladder or kidney stones or even cancer. For this reason, it is important to visit your doctor to rule out or treat any underlying cause. Infections can soon spread beyond the bladder, causing significant problems, so don’t let your embarrassment stop you from getting the tests you need.
Treatments for urge incontinence
For many sufferers, urge incontinence is just something they learn to live with, changing their lifestyle to create more toilet stops and using absorbent pads to cope with any leaks. However, this can lead to you organising your life around your condition, which is not a good way to live. Fortunately, there are many simple and effective treatments that can make a significant difference.
- Lifestyle changes – changing what you eat and drink can really help, as caffeine, alcohol, spicy and acidic foods can all irritate the bladder. Eating more fibre can also ease the symptoms as it prevents constipation pressing on the bladder.
- Losing weight – losing weight, especially if you carry your weight around your midriff, can ease the strain on your pelvic floor and help control urge incontinence.
- Bladder training – this method slowly extends your time between bathroom breaks. Start with visiting the bathroom once per hour and gradually extend this to 70mins, 80mins and so on, until you can go two or three hours between visits.
- Pelvic floor exercises – also known as Kegel exercises, these involve contracting and holding your pelvic floor in order to strengthen the muscles. You should do this several times, holding each contraction for around ten seconds, and repeat the exercise several times a day. You should only contract the pelvic floor and not any other muscles, so only you will know you are doing them. This has the advantage that you can do the exercise anywhere at any time.
- Drugs and surgery – in severe cases, which do not respond to lifestyle and exercise changes, there are drug treatments and surgery that can be considered, but these are generally only used as a last resort.
Living with urge incontinence
One of the biggest issues when dealing with urge incontinence is confidence. Panicking about the consequences of a possible leak will only create additional stress, making your symptoms worse. Conversely, having the discreet protection of an absorbent pad from IncoDirect can help you to relax and give you better control of your bladder for longer periods. It’s like knowing there’s a loo on the train; just having it there can be enough and you often don’t need to actually use it, yet without it, you can convince yourself you are desperate to go.
Talk to your doctor or get in touch with our team about how we can help you to take control of urge incontinence, and you can start to fit your condition into your life, instead of organising your life around your condition.