Updated 03 March 2015

Controlling urinary incontinence

A few simple lifestyle changes may help the millions of people living with urinary incontinence regain control of their daily lives, one expert says.

A few simple lifestyle changes may help the millions of people living with urinary incontinence regain control of their daily lives, one expert says.

This loss of bladder control is more common in people 65 and older and affects women more often than men. While drugs and minimally invasive surgery can help treat the condition, people with urinary incontinence can also take some important steps on their own, said Dr Carol Figuers, an associate clinical professor in the division of physical therapy at Duke University Medical Centre.

Decreasing caffeine intake could reduce bladder urges
For example, "decreasing or eliminating caffeine intake can help reduce bladder urges," Figuers said in a prepared statement.

Caffeine can irritate and stimulate the bladder and cause urgent, frequent urination and increased urine production, she explained. Individuals who drink more than two caffeinated beverages a day should gradually reduce their caffeine intake to avoid possible withdrawal symptoms such as headache or sleepiness. Substituting non-caffeinated drinks in place of coffee, tea and colas can go a long way to reducing incontinence, the Duke expert said.

Reducing liquid intake is not a good idea
On the other hand, it's not a good idea to cut back on intake of liquids in an attempt to reduce the urge to urinate, Figuers said. Lack of liquids can cause dehydration, which can cause urine to become concentrated and actually result in increased bladder urgency, foul-smelling urine and, sometimes, bladder infection.

Drinking too much alcohol and eating too much spicy food can also aggravate incontinence.

Figuers said that bladder training and "timed voiding" can help control wayward bladders. Developing a regular schedule of urinating can help bladders hold more urine and gradually increase the time between urination. Holding urine too long can increase the risk of urinary tract infection, however.

Link to pelvic floor muscles
Urinary incontinence is often linked to a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegel exercises) can strengthen those muscles and help prevent urine leakage, Figuers said.

"An individual can learn to improve both the strength and endurance of this special muscle group through regular exercise," she explained. "They're most effective when a person is able to isolate the pelvic floor muscle and exercise that muscle specifically." – (HealthDayNews)

Read more:
Visit Health24's Kidney and Bladder Centre

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Jacobus van Rensburg is the head of the Urogynaecology Unit at the University of Stellenbosch. He received his medical degree from the University of Pretoria and later his MMed from the University of Cape Town. He has a broad-based interest which includes teaching, pelvic floor disorders and urinary and faecal incontinence.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules