You’re not the only one doing those late night searches
By Alison Lynch
Bladder weakness affects one in four women in their lifetime*. Yet, it’s thought that less than half will ever speak to their doctor about it. In other words, you’re definitely not the only one Googling symptoms late at night.
So, to lift the lid on the most common bladder weakness queries, we asked Dr Roger Henderson to answer some of the most Googled questions about incontinence.
How many types of incontinence are there?
There are 5 main types: stress incontinence, urge incontinence, combination stress and urge incontinence, overflow incontinence and functional incontinence.
Stress incontinence is the most common form and occurs during activities that increase abdominal pressure, such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, lifting heavy objects or during physical activity. This increased abdominal pressure can push down on the bladder, forcing urine to leak out.
Urge incontinence (also known as overactive bladder) refers to the sudden and urgent desire to urinate and the inability to hold the urine until a toilet is reached. It’s usually caused by the bladder muscle contracting involuntarily.
Overflow incontinence happens when someone has difficulty passing urine, causing the bladder to be permanently full, so excess urine spills out.
Functional incontinence occurs when physical or mental barriers mean someone cannot make it to the loo in time.
What causes incontinence in women?
Stress incontinence typically results from weakened pelvic floor muscles caused by pregnancy, childbirth and the menopause. (It is common for women to experience some degree of incontinence during pregnancy and following childbirth). Being overweight or obese can also lead to stress incontinence, as can pelvic floor straining linked with constipation or chronic coughing that can occur in smokers. Some women may also have a genetic predisposition to pelvic floor weakness.
The cause of urge incontinence, where the bladder muscles contract involuntarily, is not fully understood. However, it can be associated with poor bladder habits e.g. the habit of passing urine ‘just in case’, which can irritate the bladder muscle, causing it to spasm before the bladder is full – this gets worse as we get older as our bladders aren’t able to hold as much urine.
Other causes of incontinence include nerve damage, neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder stones, prolapse and uterine fibroids.
How can you improve bladder control?
Whichever type of bladder weakness you have, there are certain things you can do to improve bladder health:
- Aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of fluid (mainly water) daily, to keep the urine diluted and avoid irritating the bladder.
- Avoid food and drink that can irritate the bladder, such as alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, fizzy drinks, fruit juice and spicy foods.
- Only go to the toilet when your bladder is full and you really need to wee, rather than going ‘just in case’.
- Don’t strain when you empty your bladder or bowels and sit properly on the toilet (women should avoid ‘hovering’ over the toilet seat, as this may prevent them from emptying your bladder fully.)
- Do pelvic floor exercises several times a day to strengthen the muscles. You should start to see an improvement after three months. TENA’s My Pelvic Floor Fitness Appwill help you stick to those 10 reps, 3 times a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight and avoid smoking.
And if you do experience bladder leaks, TENA Lady has a range of products designed to offer Triple Protection from leaks, odour and moisture, giving you total confidence throughout the day.
Not sure what product is right for you? Head to the TENA website to find out more about the different pads available and try for yourself by ordering a free sample below.
Googling symptoms is not a substitute for speaking to a medical professional. If you’re concerned about bladder leaks, speak to your doctor
* International consultation on incontinence (ICI), publication 2013, Abrams et all