Incontinence is More Common Than You Think
If you sometimes struggle to make it to the bathroom in time or have accidents, you aren’t alone. Almost half of all older adults experience some form of incontinence. Even though incontinence is a common problem, that doesn’t make it any easier for the people living with it.
Contrary to what you might think, incontinence isn’t always a result of aging. But, older adults are more likely to have conditions that can cause incontinence. In men, an enlarged prostate can make it difficult to empty the bladder, leading to leaks. Arthritis can also make it a struggle to make it to the bathroom in time. And conditions like type 2 diabetes or Parkinson’s disease can damage your ability to control your bladder or your bowels.
You don’t have to resign yourself to living with this. The first step toward getting help is to let your doctor know what’s going on. Don’t let embarrassment stop you. Remember: Your doctor is there for you, and there are treatments that may help.
Before you see your doctor, you may want to keep a diary so you can give your doctor a full picture of what’s happening. There may be a pattern that can help your doctor decide what treatment will be best for you.
This common problem can start pretty early for women. Childbirth can weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor, as can the onset of menopause. This usually manifests as stress incontinence. If you sometimes leak when you sneeze, laugh or cough, you may have stress incontinence. Your doctor may suggest exercises (called Kegels) to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Biofeedback helps you relearn how to control your pelvic floor muscles using sensors. Click here to learn how to do a Kegel exercise.
In men, the most common cause of urinary incontinence is an enlarged or inflamed prostate. This makes it difficult to fully empty the bladder. Your doctor may suggest timed voiding, or following a schedule of when you are going to use the restroom. They may also recommend pelvic floor exercises and biofeedback.
If you experience a sudden urge to go to the bathroom and can’t make it on time, you may have urge incontinence. Your doctor may suggest you follow a bathroom schedule. You might also need to cut back on caffeine and alcohol and limit the amount you drink before bed.
Digestive conditions, diarrhea and constipation can affect control of your bowels. So can muscle injury, nerve damage and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Luckily, there are many treatment options available that can help so don’t delay in discussing with your doctor.
Changing your diet and personal habits may help improve all types of incontinence. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Lose weight. Quit smoking. These changes can help you control your bladder. Eating more fiber and drinking more water can help with bowel control.
Some over-the-counter medicines and supplements can also help with fecal incontinence. Ask your doctor if there is an over-the-counter medicine or supplements you can try.
You can also buy absorbent pads to wear so you don’t have to worry about accidents. Talk to your doctor to see if this is their recommendation to fit your life style.
Filed under: Medicare