Now that you know a little bit about the different types of incontinence, as well as what typically causes them, you're ready to learn home remedies that can help you deal with this bladder control problem.
Keep a diary. Maintaining a voiding diary, or uro-log, will create a record of when you urinated and the circumstances surrounding it. The diary should include the time of day of urination or leakage; the type and amount of fluid intake that preceded it; the amount voided in ounces (pharmacies carry measuring devices that fit right inside the toilet bowl); the amount of leakage (small, medium, or large); the activity engaged in when leakage occurred; and whether or not an urge to urinate was present. Keeping such a diary for at least four days, if not a full week, before you see a doctor can help him or her determine what type of incontinence you have and the course of treatment. When you see a doctor, take along a list or the actual bottles of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you have been taking, because some medications can cause incontinence.
Lose weight. Carrying extra fat in the abdominal region puts pressure on the bladder and stresses the pelvic muscles.
Do not smoke. Here's another reason to give up the habit. Nicotine can irritate the bladder, and for heavy smokers, coughing can contribute to stress incontinence.
Buy yourself some insurance. There are numerous products on the market today that will absorb any accidents and, at the same time, protect your clothing or bedding from wetness. Specially made disposable or reusable briefs, diapers, liners, inserts, and linen protectors can add a measure of confidence. For some people, sanitary napkins or panty liners may be an acceptable alternative that provides enough protection. You may also want to ask your doctor about medical devices that can prevent leakage, including urethral inserts (small plugs placed in the urethra that can be removed when you need to urinate) and urine seals (tiny disposable foam pads that are placed over the urethra opening).
Be confident on the road. External collecting devices that are specially designed for use by females or males can make traveling a little more comfortable. These on-the-go urinals, which are also convenient for bedside use, are available at medical-supply stores and pharmacies and through mail order and Web sites.
Go before you go. Try to empty your bladder before you take a trip of an hour or more, whether you feel the urge to go or not.
Then go again. After voiding, stand up and sit down again. Then lean forward, which will compress the abdomen and put pressure on the bladder, to help empty the bladder completely.
Wear clothes that are easy to remove. Women's clothing, in particular, can pose a problem, especially for those with urge incontinence. Jumpsuits, unitards, and one-piece swimsuits can slow you down when you're in a hurry to go because these one-piece outfits must be removed from the top down. Skip such suits or look for ones with a snapped opening at the crotch for quick and easy removal. (You should also probably skip any skintight pants or skirts and control-top hose that put unnecessary pressure on your lower abdomen in addition to being difficult to pull down.) You might also want to carry extra clothing with you so that you can change if an accident occurs. If your clothes happen to become stained with urine, soak them for three hours in a mixture of one gallon water and one cup dishwashing detergent.
Weight for results. Resistive exercise -- when force is exerted against a weight -- can be used to strengthen the sphincter muscles of the urethra and other muscles in the pelvic region that are important to regaining continence. Cones that are about the size of a tampon and that come in varying weights are designed for use in the vagina (women) or rectum (men). When a cone is inserted, the muscles in the region must contract in order to hold the weight and not let it drop. When done properly -- and consistently -- these exercises should begin to show results within a few months. These weight sets are available from physicians, who can guide your use of the cones, or from medical-supply stores. Be sure to carefully read and follow the accompanying instructions on proper use for best results. Start by holding in the lightest weight for 15 minutes, two times a day. Once successful at that weight, try the next heaviest weight for the same amount of time. Some versions of these cones come with an electronic biofeedback system, called a perineometer, which reports on the amount of pressure you're applying to the inserted cone.
Exercise. You can keep your pelvic-floor muscles in shape by regularly doing strengthening exercises. However, you should also be wary of exercise gimmicks. Carefully investigate any exercise contraption that claims to help decrease incontinence. A company may promote the fact that its gadget will tone the pelvic-floor muscles, but the device may actually exercise an unrelated muscle group, if it does anything at all. An exerciser for use between the thighs, for instance, will not strengthen the pelvic-floor muscles. If you're not sure if a certain exerciser will benefit your incontinence problem, ask your doctor about it before you spend your time or money.
Here are a few simple exercises recommended by the NAFC that should be done on a daily basis for best results. If you need additional instruction, the NAFC can help you obtain more information, or you can consult your doctor. In addition, your doctor may recommend exercises of increasing difficulty, depending on your specific case.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet slightly apart. Contract all the openings in the pelvic-floor -- the rectum, urethra, and, in women, the vagina, too. To help you isolate the muscles, first squeeze as if trying to keep from passing gas. Then (for women) contract the vagina as if trying not to lose a tampon. Then, proceed forward as if trying to stop urinating. Hold the tension while slowly counting to three. Then slowly release the tension. Repeat five to ten times. You should feel a "lift" inside you. Be sure to breathe smoothly and comfortably and do not tense your stomach, thigh, or buttocks muscles; otherwise, you may be exercising the wrong muscles. Check your abdomen with your hand to make sure the stomach area is relaxed.
- Repeat the first exercise while using a low stool to support the lower part of your legs. Raising your legs will help further relax the pelvic-floor muscles for the exercise.
- Repeat the first exercise while kneeling on the floor with your elbows resting on a cushion. In this position, the stomach muscles are completely relaxed. If you are unable to kneel, roll up a blanket and place it under your groin while you lie on your stomach, then perform the exercise.
Make a phone call. Call 1-800-BLADDER, NAFC's toll-free number, for details on how to receive a free packet of information on services and products for people with incontinence; you can also order the packet from the NAFC's Web site at www.nafc.org.
For more information about urinary tract problems and how to combat them, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- To learn how to avoid coming down with an infection of the urinary tract, read How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infections.
- To ease painful urinary tract symptoms at home, try the tips in Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infections.
- Home Remedies for Kidney Stones discusses how to prevent kidney stones from forming, and how to alleviate their symptoms.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.