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Abdominal Problems

Urinary Incontinence

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

If you suffer from loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence), you are not alone. Many people are coping with this problem.

Many cases of incontinence can be controlled or cured if the underlying problem is corrected. Water pills (diuretics) and many other common medications can cause temporary incontinence. Constipation, urinary tract infections, stones in the urinary tract, multiple pregnancies, and being overweight are other causes of incontinence.

The 2 most common types of persistent or chronic loss of bladder control are described here.

Stress incontinence occurs when small amounts of urine leak out during exercise or when you cough, laugh, or sneeze. It is more common in women than in men, but it may affect some men after prostate surgery. For women, Kegel exercises often help relieve stress incontinence. See Kegel Exercises. Ask your doctor about devices that can be used to prevent urine from leaking.

Urge incontinence happens when the need to urinate comes on so quickly that there is not enough time to get to the toilet. Causes include bladder infection, prostate enlargement, tumors that press on the bladder, Parkinson's disease, and nerve-related disorders such as multiple sclerosis or stroke.

Home Treatment

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  • Don't let incontinence keep you from doing the things you like to do. Absorbent pads or briefs, such as Attends and Depend, are available in pharmacies and supermarkets. No one will know you are wearing an absorbent pad.

  • Avoid beverages that contain caffeine, which overstimulates the bladder. Do not cut down on fluids overall; you need fluids to keep the rest of your body healthy.

  • Stop smoking. This may reduce your coughing, which may in turn reduce your problem with incontinence.

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.

  • Practise "double-voiding." Empty your bladder as much as possible, relax for a minute, and then try to empty it again.

  • If you have stress incontinence, practise Kegel exercises daily (women only). See Kegel Exercises.

  • Urinate on a schedule, perhaps every 3 to 4 hours during the day, whether the urge is there or not. This may help you restore control.

  • Wear clothing that can be removed quickly, such as pants with elastic waistbands.

  • Clear a path from your bed to the bathroom, or consider placing a portable commode by your bed.

  • Keep skin in the genital area dry to prevent rashes. Vaseline or Desitin ointment will help protect the skin from irritation caused by urine.

Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises can help cure or improve stress incontinence by strengthening the muscles that control the flow of urine. No one will know you are doing them except you.

  • Locate the muscles by repeatedly stopping your urine in midstream and starting again.

  • Practise squeezing these muscles while you are not urinating. If your stomach or buttocks move, you are not using the right muscles.

  • Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, then relax for 3 seconds.

  • Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times per session. Do at least 3 Kegel exercise sessions per day.

  • Incontinence is sometimes caused by a urinary tract infection. If you feel pain or burning when you urinate, see Urinary Tract Infections on See Urinary Tract Infections.

  • Pay special attention to any medications you are taking, including nonprescription drugs, since some affect bladder control.

    Don't let incontinence embarrass you. Take charge and work with your doctor to treat any underlying condition that may be causing the problem.

    For more information about urinary incontinence, contact the Canadian Continence Foundation, P.O. Box 30, Victoria Branch, Westmount, Qc H3Z 2V4, 1-800-265-9575.

    When to Call a Health Professional

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    • If you suddenly become incontinent.

    • If you are urinating frequently, but only passing small amounts of urine.

    • If your bladder feels full even after you urinate.

    • If you have difficulty urinating when your bladder feels full.

    • If you feel burning or pain while urinating.

    • If your urine looks bloody. See Blood in the Urine.

    • If your urine has an unusual odour.

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