Stress incontinence is treatable. The first line of available stress incontinence treatment includes non-invasive lifestyle changes, exercises, and behavioural therapies.
If first-line treatments do not improve your symptoms, other treatments are available. These may include medication, assistive devices, and surgery.
In some cases, stress incontinence is caused by another health condition, such as a urinary tract infection. If that is the case, treating the underlying condition should help to relieve your symptoms.
Changing Your Lifestyle
Leading a healthier lifestyle can sometimes help to improve symptoms of stress incontinence. Some changes you might be able to make include the following.
Aiming for a healthy weight
Excess weight can put pressure on your bladder. Losing even a little bit of weight might provide some relief of stress incontinence symptoms.
Smoking cigarettes impacts your respiratory health. Frequent coughing, in particular, is a risk factor in the development of stress incontinence. In addition, nicotine can affect your bladder health.
Quitting smoking may help to improve your symptoms.
Changing your diet
Foods and drinks that make you go to the bathroom more frequently might play a role in stress incontinence.
You might find it helpful to avoid certain dietary triggers and to limit the amount you drink. You might also cut down on the consumption of alcohol and caffeine beverages as these substances irritate the bladder.
Avoiding high-impact activities
Stress incontinence can be triggered by high-impact movements, such as running or jumping. If this applies to your case, your doctor might suggest avoiding those kinds of activities.
Strengthening your pelvic muscles
Kegel exercises may help you to strengthen the muscles that support your bladder, the pelvic floor muscles, and also the sphincter that encircles the urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside.
You don’t need any special equipment to do these exercises, and you can do them almost anywhere.
To do a Kegel, you first need to locate your pelvic floor muscles. Practice on the toilet first. While urinating, contract your muscles to stop the flow of urine. These are your pelvic floor muscles.
Once you understand how to contract and release your pelvic floor muscles, you can do Kegels anywhere. You need to do them on a regular basis to see an improvement in your symptoms.
Here’s a step-by-step article on how to do Kegel exercises, and why they’re important. A doctor or physiotherapist can help you learn more.
Behavioural Therapies for Stress Incontinence Treatment
Certain behavioural therapies might be able to help lessen the frequency and intensity of stress incontinence episodes. Some behavioural therapies commonly used to treat stress incontinence include:
- Timing your fluid consumption. Your doctor might suggest following a fluid intake schedule to help regulate your fluid consumption during the day and evening. This might help make the urge to urinate more predictable.
- Timed voiding. For people who have both stress incontinence and urge incontinence, going to the bathroom at frequent, regular intervals might reduce episodes of incontinence.
- Double voiding. It may be helpful to urinate, wait a couple of minutes, and try to urinate again. This helps to ensure that your bladder is really empty.
In Canada, there are no approved medications for the treatment of stress incontinence treatment.
Some women report that application of estrogen in the form of a vaginal cream or ring may help.
If your symptoms do not improve with other treatments, your doctor might suggest using a specialized device. Vaginal pessaries are available for women. They are generally inserted by a healthcare professional and serve to prevent stress incontinence episodes by supporting the bladder.
Urethral inserts are another option for women who have stress incontinence. These disposable devices are inserted into the urethra to act as a barrier. They are typically used during special activities that are particularly problematic. Your doctor can help you learn more.
In severe cases and when other treatments prove ineffective, your doctor might recommend surgery. There are a number of different surgical procedures designed to treat stress incontinence.
A surgeon can help you understand which one is best for you.
Most surgeries for stress incontinence involve providing your bladder and urethra with additional support by inserting a structure called a sling. This procedure is more common for women than men.
Another option is to strengthen the urethral sphincter through a collagen injection. This is still considered a surgical procedure, but it’s far less invasive than inserting a sling.
If your bladder has dropped (prolapsed), it can be lifted up and held in place with stitches.
After Your Diagnosis
If you have been diagnosed with stress incontinence, your doctor can help you understand what to do next. Remember that the treatment depends on a number of factors such as your age, medical history, and other conditions you might have.
You should talk to your doctor to learn more about the treatments available, as well as which ones might be right for you. Your doctor might suggest a single treatment or even several.
Living with stress incontinence can be a challenge. However, in most cases, treatments can improve your quality of life and reduce episodes of incontinence.
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The information in this health guide should not be taken as professional medical advice. If you are having issues or have health-related concerns, you should see your personal physician