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How to Manage Stress Incontinence

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Dr. Michael Green
Medically Reviewed byDr. Michael GreenMD, OB/GYN Chief Medical OfficerRead Bio
Written ByJill Kirby
Published07/19/22
Updated02/04/24

Do you find yourself constantly running to the bathroom? Are you afraid to sneeze or laugh for fear of leaking? If so, you may be suffering from urinary incontinence. This is a condition that affects millions of people each year, and it can be very frustrating. In this blog post, we will discuss incontinence and tips to help reduce symptoms.

Types of urinary incontinence

There are five different types of urinary incontinence, including stress, urge, overflow, functional, and mixed incontinence1. Today we’ll talk about managing stress incontinence.

What is stress incontinence, and what are the symptoms?

Urinary incontinence is characterized by the involuntary leakage of urine, and it can occur during activities like coughing, sneezing, or laughing.

Stress incontinence can be the result of damage to the nerves that control the bladder muscles, but it is commonly due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the bladder and help to control urine flow. When they are weak, they may not be able to prevent urine leakage as stress is placed on the bladder.

Symptoms of urinary incontinence may include leakage of small amounts of urine, an urgent need to urinate, and difficulty controlling urine flow.

Causes of stress incontinence

Women are more likely to experience stress incontinence than men, due to pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. But urinary incontinence can also be caused by obesity, chronic cough, and certain types of surgery.

While stress incontinence can be a nuisance, there are treatments available to help manage the condition. These include pelvic floor muscle exercises, lifestyle changes, and medications. In some cases, surgery may be necessary. With proper treatment, most people with stress incontinence can live normal, active lives.

Tips to reduce the symptoms of stress incontinence

For many people, stress incontinence is an embarrassing and frustrating problem, but there are several things you can do to help reduce the symptoms:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight - Excess weight can put additional pressure on the bladder and worsen stress incontinence. Walking, even just 30 minutes a day, is an easy, free, and fun way to lose weight2

  2. Empty your bladder - Be sure to empty your bladder before engaging in any activity that may trigger a leak like running, exercising, or lifting something heavy3.

  3. Pelvic floor exercises - Also called Kegel exercises, pelvic floor exercises are simple clenches and releases of the muscles that make up the pelvic floor. These muscles support the bladder and help to control urine flow. Kegel exercises can be done anywhere and at any time, and they don't require any special equipment. To do a Kegel exercise, squeeze the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. Hold for 10 seconds and then release for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. 

  4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol - Caffeine and alcohol can irritate the bladder and worsen symptoms. Caffeine is a stimulant and can make the bladder overactive, which exacerbates urinary incontinence. Alcohol does not cause incontinence, but it is a diuretic. This means it makes you feel like you have to urinate more frequently, which in turn can increase urinary incontinence.

  5. Avoid smoking - Smoking can actually damage the nerves that control the bladder muscles. Smoking can also cause coughing, which can increase incontinence.

  6. Stay hydrated - Drinking more water might sound counterintuitive, but staying hydrated is actually one of the most important things you can do to avoid stress incontinence. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day keeps urine diluted and reduces the risk of leaks.

  7. Try to relax and avoid stress - There are a number of easy ways to reduce stress, including:

  • Taking breaks throughout the day

  • Practicing relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation

  • Exercising regularly

  • Spending time with friends and family

  • Taking periodic vacations

  • Engaging in stress-relieving activities like painting, crafting, or reading

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When should I see a doctor about my symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms of stress incontinence, talk to your doctor about how to manage the condition. There are many treatments available that can help reduce the symptoms and improve your quality of life.

According to the Mayo Clinic, medications commonly used to treat incontinence include, anticholinergics, mirabegron, alpha-blockers, and topical estrogen1.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the underlying cause of stress incontinence.

Other FAQs:

How do I know if I have stress incontinence?

  • The primary symptom of stress incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine during activities that put pressure on your bladder, like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercising. You may also leak urine when you stand up after sitting for a long time or when you change positions.

  • Another way to tell if you have stress incontinence is to monitor your daily activities and see if there are times when you're more likely to leak. For example, do you always leak after a night's sleep or during your morning workout? If so, stress incontinence may be to blame.

Is there a cure for stress incontinence?

  • There is no one-size-fits-all cure for stress incontinence, but many treatments can help reduce the symptoms.

Conclusion

Stress incontinence is a condition that affects millions of people, both men, and women. It is caused by stress or pressure on the bladder, which can lead to leakage.

Diet and lifestyle changes and pelvic floor muscle training can help both in reducing the risk of developing stress incontinence and managing the existing condition. 

If you think you might have stress incontinence, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. They can help diagnose the condition and recommend the best course of treatment for you. Managing stress incontinence is possible, and you don’t have to suffer in silence.

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

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