Why so Serious? Women's Health

Urinary Incontinence – What Is It And How Kegel Exercises & Yoga Can Fix It?

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Incontinence is one of the most undiscussed topics around the world as most people consider it a social embarrassment and refrain from seeking professional help. To help people get over this social awkwardness the International Continence Society (ICS) runs a yearly one-week campaign to raise awareness about the health condition.

This year, this social awareness week will be observed between 21 and 27 June and The Urology Foundation will highlight the adverse effects urinary incontinence can pose.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

It is referred to as the involuntary leakage of urine, which means a patient has either lost or weakened control over his/her bladder. It is the reason behind adult bedwetting leading to sleep issues. Because of being unreported, the cases of urinary continence are increasing rapidly.

Who suffers from it more?

According to research, women suffer from urinary incontinence more than men. The research claims that about 30% of women suffer from this problem between 30 to 60 years of age, while 1.5% to 5% of men suffer from this problem during this age.

Symptoms and Types of Urinary Incontinence

People usually suffer from occasional or minor leaks of urine, but some may lose small to moderate amounts of it involuntarily. The frequency of it happening also differs from patient to patient.

Let’s read about the different symptoms based on the types of incontinence:

  1. Stress incontinence – In it, a patient releases some urine whenever there is some pressure on the bladder due to weight lifting, laughing, exercising, coughing or sneezing.
  2. Urge incontinence – In it, the patient experiences a sudden urge to urinate and loses some urine involuntarily. It makes the patient urinate more often, sometimes, throughout the night. It may be the result of some minor infection or a serious condition like diabetes or a neurological disorder.
  3. Overflow incontinence – The patient always feels the urge to urinate as the bladder never gets completely empty. It may be seen commonly in men with prostate problems.
  4. Functional incontinence – Sometimes, patients fail to make it to the toilet in time owing to a physical or mental impairment. For example, if a person is suffering from arthritis, he/she might not be able to unbutton their pants in time.
  5. Mixed incontinence – Some patients also suffer from more than one type of urinary incontinence. Generally, it is referred to as a combination of stress and urge incontinence.

Causes of Urinary Incontinence

It can be a result of multiple factors like daily habits, underlying health conditions or physical issues. The causes of urinary incontinence can be differentiated by dividing the problem into two different categories – Temporary incontinence and Persistent incontinence. Have a look:

Temporary urinary incontinence

There can be particular drinks, food or medicines which may result in stimulation of your bladder and increase the volume of urine. These include:

  • Spicy, sugary or acidic foods.
  • Citrus fruits
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Chilli peppers
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Sparkling water
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Heart and BP medications
  • Excess vitamin C
  • Sedatives
  • Muscle relaxants

Urinary incontinence can also be a result of minor health conditions like:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Constipation

Persistent urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence can also persist for a long time because of some underlying health condition or bodily changes. These include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Changes in muscle tone that happen with age.
  • Menopause
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Obstructions in the urinary tract.
  • Neurological disorders

Risk factors

There are plenty of risk factors associated with urinary incontinence. Have a look:

  1. Obesity – Being overweight puts extra pressure on your bladder and nearby muscles. This weakens the muscles, which usually results in urine leakage while coughing or sneezing.
  2. Smoking – It causes chronic cough which may lead to episodes of urinary incontinence.
  3. Gender – Women are more prone to suffer from stress incontinence than men, especially if they have undergone childbirth.
  4. Old age – With ageing, the muscles in the bladder and urethra tend to weaken, leading to urinary incontinence.
  5. Some diseases and conditions – People who are suffering from kidney-related ailments, diabetes, spinal cord injury or a neurological disorder are at a bigger risk of experiencing this condition.
  6. Prostate disease – Urinary incontinence may appear right after undergoing prostate surgery or radiation therapy.

Complications

Chronic urinary incontinence can lead to many complications like:

  1. Skin problems – Constant wet skin may cause rashes, sores and skin infection.
  2. Urinary tract infections Urinary incontinence enhances your risk of suffering from this condition repeatedly.
  3. Affects personal life – This condition can also badly impact your self-confidence, social and work life as well as personal relationships. This condition may also impact your psychological health.

Prevention

This condition isn’t always preventable but by following some healthy lifestyle methods, you can reduce the chances of developing it. Have a look:

  • Keep your weight in check.
  • Do kegel (pelvic floor) exercises.
  • Avoid consumption of caffeine, alcohol and acidic foods.
  • Have a fibre-rich diet.
  • Stop smoking.

Treatment/Self Help for Urinary Incontinence

The ideal treatment is determined after analysing several factors like the type of incontinence, age, overall health and mental condition of the patient. Following are some options that your doctor may advise you to help in dealing with incontinence:

  1. Kegel exercises

It is also called pelvic floor exercises and is proven to be very helpful in dealing with this problem. It is important that you learn and perform these exercises correctly. These exercises help in strengthening the urinary sphincter and pelvic floor muscles, which improves bladder control. 

  1. Bladder training
  • Delaying the event – In it, the patient has to control his/her urge to urinate whenever they feel it.
  • Double voiding – In it, the patient has to urinate and then wait for a couple of minutes and do it again.
  • Toilet timetable – In it, the patient has to prepare a timetable for passing the urine in the bathroom. Usually, it is recommended to schedule it every 2 hours.

Bladder training is a proven way of helping the patient in regaining control over his/her bladder.

  1. Yoga

Yoga has also proven to be a great self-help method to get over urinary incontinence. Experts have found out that Yoga helps in regaining control over the bladder and avoid involuntary leakage.

Mentioned below is the Viniyoga sequence proven to improve the strength of your pelvic muscles:

  • Hook Lying with a block.
  • Reclining Bound Angle Pose.
  • Two-Footed Pose.
  • Reclining Wide-Legged Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose.
  • Legs-up-the-Wall Pose.

It is also important to understand that yoga is effective when performed correctly. You may first learn the steps of this yoga from a trainer and also seek approval regarding your health, as individual needs and restrictions vary depending on other associated health conditions.

  1. Medicines for Urinary Incontinence

Medications can be prescribed by your doctor depending on the cause of incontinence.

  1. Surgery

Sometimes an underlying cause may require surgical intervention to provide relief in the symptoms of incontinence.

  1. Other options

Various products ( eg. adult diapers) and devices (eg. catheters and collection devices) are available to help you ease your problems with this condition.

Takeaway

Urinary incontinence is a widely increasing health condition that can be treated easily without much medical intervention most of the time. People should get out of the closet and speak about the issue, just like they do if they have a heart condition or any other major health condition. There is no point in making your own life miserable because of a minor health issue that can majorly affect the quality of your life. It is recommended that you should consult a doctor at the earliest and follow his advice on lifestyle modifications, diet and medications to manage this condition. Taking the right treatment measures well on time can improve your social, physical and mental wellbeing to a great extent. 

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

About the author

Shreya Gupta

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