Urinary incontinence: tips

Urinary incontinence is often caused by a loss of bladder control, or your bladder being unable to hold urine properly. There are many different types and causes of incontinence. You may feel that it is too embarrassing to talk about with anyone, but you should discuss the problem with your doctor, as it may be a symptom of another condition that requires treatment.

Here are some suggestions that may help you to manage the problem.

  • Limit alcohol and drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea or cola drinks, as caffeine can increase your need to pass urine and can irritate the bladder.
  • Try to avoid or limit any other foods and drinks that may irritate your bladder and aggravate your symptoms. These may include acidic foods or drinks, citrus fruits or spicy foods.
  • Avoid drinking in the few hours before you go to bed.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day, but not more, unless your doctor advises you otherwise. Many people who suffer urinary incontinence avoid drinking fluids as they feel that it causes more problems. Unfortunately, limiting fluid intake will only worsen the incontinence as it may lessen the capacity of your bladder.
  • Try to go to the toilet only when you feel the urge — when your bladder is full. Going ‘just in case’ can also decrease the capacity of your bladder.
  • When you urinate, try to empty your bladder as much as possible and take your time.
  • Try keeping a diary of when you go to the toilet, how often you experience incontinence and what might have caused the episode. This will help you and your doctor to learn more about your condition.
  • Ask your doctor about pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegel exercises). They keep the muscles toned that surround the opening to the bladder, the vagina and the rectum.
  • Lose weight if you need to — carrying extra weight also puts further stress on pelvic floor muscles.
  • Avoid constipation — the straining can weaken the muscles around the bladder.
  • You may need to wear absorbent pads or briefs that are designed for urinary incontinence. However, these should not be the first treatment tried. Your pharmacist can advise you about these.
  • Wear clothes that are easy to remove when going to the toilet. Slacks, trousers and skirts with elastic waists are good. If possible replace buttons and zippers with Velcro or press studs for easier opening and try clothing that is easily washable.
  • Keep your toilet, and the pathway to it, free from clutter and ensure that the lighting is adequate so it is easy to navigate in a hurry.
  • If necessary, keep a bedpan or plastic urinal (for men), or portable commode chair next to your bed. These can be obtained from specialist medical supply stores and some pharmacies.

If you are experiencing symptoms of urinary incontinence, some of these suggestions may help, but will not cure, incontinence. If your symptoms persist, do not delay in seeing your doctor — urinary incontinence is often treatable.

Last Reviewed: 4 September 2015
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References

1. Continence Foundation of Australia. Urinary incontinence. (accessed Sept 2015). http://www.continence.org.au/pages/urinary-incontinence.html
2. Mayo Clinic. Urinary incontinence. Updated Aug 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/basics/definition/con-20037883 (accessed Sept 2015).
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