Urinary incontinence is something that most people don’t think about. However, it’s a fact of life that incontinence may occur as we age.
Urinary incontinence can present itself at very uncomfortable times, creating the potential for awkwardness.
It’s important to understand just what urinary incontinence entails and how we can minimize its impact on our lives especially if you are a PCS caregiver.
What is urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence means using the bathroom without meaning to. While this may seem simple to solve, several factors cause our bodies to lose control over using the restroom at appropriate times. It is important to see a doctor to find out the causes.
This is often an embarrassing problem, but as mentioned, it is sometimes just a natural part of aging. Symptoms can range from only a tiny leak when coughing/sneezing up to involuntarily using the bathroom without feeling the urge to go until it is too late.
Although traditionally thought of as impacting the elderly, it is possible that others are at risk of urinary incontinence. It may seem unlikely, but several circumstances may cause you to develop urinary incontinence, regardless of how old you are.
Who is at risk for urinary incontinence?
The elderly are predominately at risk for urinary incontinence, but others can have urinary incontinence develop. The following are some groups that this illness could potentially impact:
- Women – Women, predominantly pregnant or who have recently given birth, are at risk for urinary incontinence. When pregnant, urinary incontinence can occur due to the growing baby pushing on organs related to urination, causing incontinence. Likewise, after giving birth, a woman’s body is still recovering after childbirth; this includes the muscles that help control urination. Additionally, women who are going through menopause can potentially experience urinary incontinence.
- The elderly – As noted, urinary incontinence often comes with aging. This is just a fact of life. Naturally, as we age, our muscles become less strong and efficient. Because of this, our bodies lose the ability to control our urinary tract..
- The overweight – Individuals who are overweight are also at risk of urinary incontinence. Because the excess weight creates additional physical stress on the bladder, overweight individuals are often left with urinary incontinence. This can be in general or exacerbated after sneezing or coughing – the extra weight creates more stress after these events, leading to mild leaks.
- Individuals with certain diseases – Certain diseases can increase the risk of urinary incontinence due to the nature of the disease. Some examples include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, brain tumors, or spinal injuries. Many diseases that decrease the brain’s efficiency or its associated network of nerves create the opportunity for muscles not to work, creating the risk for urinary incontinence. Additionally, those with cancers associated with the urinary tract and surrounding areas may be at risk, as tumors can press against the bladder, leading to incontinence.
- Individuals who sneeze a lot – This may seem ridiculous, but stress incontinence involves urinary incontinence due to physical activity, such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, running, or lifting. These activities place physical stress on the bladder, leading to incontinence. Contrary to popular belief, stress incontinence is not related to psychological stress, solely physical stress.
Some additional groups that urinary incontinence may impact include smokers or those with a family history of urinary incontinence.
As is evident, urinary incontinence can affect individuals of all age ranges. Now that we understand who is at risk, we need to understand what happens if urinary incontinence is left untreated.
What happens if incontinence is left untreated?
Besides being uncomfortable, urinary incontinence does have some medical side effects that could lead to issues if left untreated. Due to the very nature of the illness, skin problems can develop due to the wetness if not addressed quickly. Likewise, this can lead to urinary tract infections, which in turn can lead to other complications. The illness also impacts your personal and social life if left untreated, causing uncomfortable situations.
If left untreated, urinary incontinence can lead to some more severe side effects in your social life. Often, incontinence can lead to sleep loss, depression, or other social anxieties due to its impact on your personal life. Additionally, due to the social awkwardness of the illness, urinary incontinence can lead to a loss of interest in sex. As is easy to see, the illness can impact so much more than first thought if left untreated.
These are but a few examples of why urinary incontinence needs to be treated. It may not seem that pressing, but quick treatment is an easy way to stave off problems that may arise due to urinary incontinence. Besides treatment, there are ways to prevent urinary incontinence in your daily life through your choices.
Prevention of urinary incontinence
There are several ways to try to prevent urinary incontinence from impacting your life. These ways range from simple diet tips to overall life tips. Here are some tips to minimize the risk of urinary incontinence in your own life:
· Maintain a healthy weight – As noted above, being overweight creates additional stress on your bladder, increasing the risk of urinary incontinence.
· Practice pelvic floor exercises – Like any other muscle, the pelvic floor can be exercised to strengthen the muscles associated with urinary incontinence, potentially minimizing the risk of urinary incontinence.
· Avoid bladder irritants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and acidic foods – These foods are irritating to the bladder, so by eliminating them from your diet, your bladder will indeed thank you.
· Eat more fiber – Fiber prevents constipation, which is another cause of urinary incontinence. A simple diet change can help prevent an awkward situation that arises due to urinary incontinence.
· Don’t smoke – Smoking irritates the bladder like caffeine or alcohol, leading to the potential for urinary incontinence. Likewise, smoking creates the potential for coughing fits, increasing the risk of stress incontinence.
It’s obvious that although the risk can’t be eliminated due to the nature of the illness as we age, there are several choices we can make to mitigate concerns of urinary incontinence positively. Additional prevention techniques include the use of products to prevent embarrassing situations.
Best products for urinary incontinence
If you have already shown the symptoms of urinary incontinence, there are still some helpful ways to avoid situations that may seem awkward or embarrassing due to the illness. If symptoms are unavoidable, several products can help relieve the stress associated with the illness.
1. Disposable sheet protectors – Disposable sheet protectors are likely the first in the line of defense against urinary incontinence. If you think that urinary incontinence seems challenging to control during the day, the illness is equally difficult to control while asleep. As such, disposable sheet protectors should be utilized to protect the mattress in the case of an episode.
2. Adult diapers – Adult diapers have made major strides in comfort and look as time goes on. Nowadays, adult diapers are largely hidden but offer the protection needed to live a “normal” life out and about.
3. Mattress Protectors – Like disposable sheet protectors, mattress protectors serve the purpose of protection at night. Mattress protectors are often similar to pads placed under them to absorb any liquid that may leak throughout the night. The following day, these pads are then disposed of, protecting the mattress.
4. Protective Underwear – Protective underwear serves many of the same purposes as adult diapers with some additional sleekness. These allow an individual to have the look and feel of traditional underwear with the protection of adult diapers.
5. Liners – Liners are disposable add-ins to underwear that serve as protection from leaks. These are ultrathin, so they will not be noticeable if you are worried about what other people will think.
Should you be confronted with the illness, there are ways to mitigate the appearance of leaks using products, as illustrated above.
Urinary incontinence, a manageable illness
Urinary incontinence is often viewed as an elderly illness, but it can impact various groups throughout their lives. This illness may seem insignificant but can lead to other illnesses if left untreated. Several lifestyle choices can be made to mitigate the risk of urinary incontinence. If the illness begins impacting your life, there are products available to deal with the effects of the illness. Overall, the illness is manageable, even if it may seem embarrassing or awkward at times.