How can I manage my urinary incontinence?

Many people must cope with urinary incontinence -- at least for a while before treatment, and sometimes afterward as well, if treatment does not completely correct the symptoms. If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, even temporarily, it's important to realize that you have other options beyond the expensive pads and "adult diapers" available on drugstore shelves. There are options designed specifically for men or women as well as pad-and-pants systems tailored to specific types of incontinence.

If you must deal with incontinence, seek advice from health professionals or support organizations such as the National Association for Continence. You will find less expensive, more effective products and learn strategies to maximize your ability to work, travel, and participate in your favorite activities. You can also learn about ways to help prevent your problem from worsening.
First, see your doctor to try to identify the cause of your urinary incontinence, as treatments are available for certain types of incontinence. A timed urination schedule is often helpful. Planning ahead by bringing pads or adult diapers can help you avoid accidents. Don’t drink less water overall as you can become dehydrated, but if you slightly reduce your fluid intake after 6 p.m. you will be less likely to have nighttime accidents. Caffeine, alcohol and other foods and drinks can increase urination. Talk to your doctor about which foods and drinks to avoid.
Marc B. Garnick, MD
Hematology & Oncology
Even if your urinary incontinence can't be cured, it can be managed. Absorbent underclothing is available that's no more bulky than normal underwear and can be worn easily under everyday clothing. Highly absorbent disposable pads are available in drug stores.

In another approach, a flexible tube (called an indwelling catheter) can be placed in the urethra to collect urine in a container. However, long-term catheterization, although sometimes necessary, can create many problems, including urinary infections. Finally, an external collecting device is another option for men. This device is fitted over the penis and connected to a drainage bag. These procedures are used when other alternatives cannot be offered because of existing medical conditions or other co-morbidities.

Daily treatment for urinary incontinence should focus on treating the causes of the incontinence, which can help to reduce or eliminate accidents. Talk to your doctor about specific treatments or lifestyle changes that may help you manage your incontinence. If you have functional incontinence, for example, you simply cannot make it to the bathroom in time because of impairment, like arthritic hands that have a difficult time unbuttoning pants. In this case, you may find wearing pants that are easier to get off or adding a bathroom to a more convenient place in your house is enough. You may also wear absorbent pads or extra clothing, but if your urinary incontinence is enough to interfere with your daily life, talk to your doctor about more long-term treatments.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.