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Incontinence

Updated 22 July 2019

Your incontinence checklist - what to do if you suspect a problem

Urinary incontinence can be an embarrassing problem, and it’s important that you address the issue and treat any underlying issues to retain your quality of life.

Urinary incontinence can affect your quality of life on many levels, including at work and socially. It’s important to understand that while you might feel embarrassed about the condition, there are many ways to treat and manage urinary incontinence.

It’s also important to understand the origin and cause of your urinary incontinence, as it can signal an underlying medical problem.

So, if you’ve recently started experiencing urinary incontinence and don’t know what to do, this guide may help:

1. Determine what kind of incontinence you have

The main types of urinary incontinence are:

  • Urge incontinence
  • Stress incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Mixed incontinence
  • Total incontinence

These all have different causes. Read here for an explanation of each type of incontinence.

2. Prepare to speak to your doctor

You might want to keep the problem to yourself and not discuss it with your doctor, but Cape Town-based urologist Dr Prenevin Govender says that any form of urinary incontinence deserves the attention of a doctor. There are some cases where urinary incontinence requires urgent medical care. If you're preparing for a visit to your doctor, remember the following:

  • Be prepared to give a urine sample during your examination – drink water beforehand.
  • Draw up a list of questions.
  • Think carefully about your medical history and things that may have increased your risk for incontinence (vaginal births, previous injuries, or menopause). Your doctor will ask you detailed questions.
  • You might be referred to a urologist if further examination is needed.

3. Understand that there are several treatment options

While urinary incontinence will not go away on its own, it’s good to know that there are several ways to successfully manage the condition. Treatment will depend on the severity and the type of problem. Here is a comprehensive list of non-medical and medical treatment and management options, as well as surgery options that your doctor or urologist might discuss with you. 

4. Understand your risk factors

You might be asking yourself why you're experiencing this embarrassing problem. It’s important to know that urinary incontinence is more common than you think. Here's a list of risk factors that might put you on the right path and prepare you for your doctor’s visit.

5. How much peeing is normal?

Do you need to go to the loo often, without actually experiencing leakage? You might have overactive bladder syndrome. This article explains when frequent urination is not normal.

6. Keep a bladder diary

During your initial visit with your urologist, you might be asked to keep a record of how often and when you empty your bladder. Not only will this information be useful for your medical professional to determine the type and severity of your problem, but it will also help you manage your incontinence and to know what triggers it. Read more here on how you should keep a record of your urination. You can also download your own bladder diary here.

7. Be prepared to make lifestyle changes

While urinary incontinence can’t always be avoided, there are triggers such as excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, obesity and inactivity that may aggravate it. Read more here about the avoidable triggers that can make urinary incontinence worse.

8. Don’t stop living your life

It’s understandable that you may start wanting to avoid social events, work obligations and exercise, but you should know that there are ways to handle urinary incontinence in different situations. From going to the gym, running races, travelling and being at work, there are many tips on Health24 on how to manage urinary incontinence. 

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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