Can incontinence be treated?
Incontinence can hold you back from living your life to the max. It can impact your self-confidence, mental health, ability to socialise, exercise and overall quality of life. The bad news: urinary incontinence isn’t something that tends to go away on its own. The good news: there are lots of treatment options out there with the potential to help you manage your symptoms.
Pelvic floor exercises, bladder training, lifestyle changes – all are ways proven to help reduce or even cure the symptoms of urinary incontinence. And if these non-invasive treatments aren’t effective, then your doctor can choose from a range of medications and surgical procedures.
So, how do you know which treatment option is the right one?
Speak to a specialist for advice on the best treatment plan for you. Their recommendation will be based on a number of factors: the type of incontinence you have, the severity, and the cause. If your incontinence is a result of an underlying medical condition, your doctor will want to address that first.
Treatments for stress incontinence
Stress incontinence occurs when you experience leakage during activities that put sudden stress on the bladder and urethra, such as exercise, coughing, sneezing, sex or laughing. It’s far more common in women than men, and is often the result of weakened muscles around the bladder due to pregnancy, childbirth or ageing.
If you experience stress incontinence, lifestyle changes and simple exercises can make a big difference. Your specialist might recommend losing weight, or doing regular pelvic floor exercises (called Kegels) which can bring strength back to the muscles supporting the bladder. Women can also use vaginal inserts - over-the-counter devices that you insert in the vagina to compress the urethra and help prevent leakage.
Watch this 3min explainer video on stress incontinence
Treatments for urge incontinence
Urge incontinence happens when you have a sudden, strong urge to urinate and can struggle to get to a toilet in time. Causes include neurological disorders (such as Parkinson’s or dementia), urinary tract infections and diabetes.
Weight loss and pelvic floor exercises can help you regain bladder control. Other effective options include managing your fluid intake, bladder training, stop smoking, and cutting down on bladder irritants like carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine.
Watch this 3min explainer video on urge incontinence
Treatments for severe symptoms
What if you can’t manage your symptoms with non-invasive treatments?
For more persistent or severe incontinence, your specialist might suggest medications or surgery. Medications can be very effective in helping you regain bladder control. Some medications work by relaxing muscles around the bladder to help it empty fully, while others calm overactive bladders. For women, oestrogen cream can help reduce leaks by rejuvenating tissue in the urethra and vaginal areas.
Or your doctor might recommend a medical procedure or surgery, such as:
- Urethra bulking: Typically used for stress incontinence, a bulking agent is injected to thicken the urethral wall and help keep it closed, preventing leakage.
- Urethral sling: A common surgery used for both men and women, the surgeon inserts a sling made out of mesh or your own tissue to support the urethra and help it stay closed.
- Artificial urinary sphincter: This implanted device is commonly used to prevent incontinence after prostate cancer surgery.
So speak to a specialist to find the right incontinence treatment plan for you, and get back to living your life to the full.
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