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Don’t keep quiet about incontinence

» Common types

» Who is a candidate?

» A look at treatment options

Help your bladder behave

Besides performing Kegels, there are other steps you can take to regain control of your bladder. Here are a few.

  • ELIMINATE THE IRRITANTS. Diet can play a role in incontinence. Try eliminating caffeine, alcohol, sugar, acidic juices and foods and spicy foods, which can irritate the bladder and cause urge incontinence.
  • QUIT SMOKING. Chronic coughing caused by smoking can weaken bladder muscles. Also, nicotine is thought to cause those muscles to contract.
  • MONITOR YOUR FLUIDS. Pass up caffeine-containing fluids such as coffee, tea, cocoa and some sodas. If nighttime incontinence is a problem, stop drinking fluids after 6 p.m.
  • TAKE OFF EXTRA POUNDS. If you’re overweight, try to shed unwanted pounds to take some of the strain off your bladder and pelvic muscles.
  • IMPROVE VOIDING TECHNIQUE. To completely empty your bladder when voiding, press on it (just above the pubic bone) while bending forward at the waist.

More than six million people in this country, mostly women, are keeping a secret. According to experts, at least half of the estimated 13 million sufferers of incontinence--the involuntary loss of urine-- suffer in silence because they’re too embarrassed to get help. Yet most of the time, incontinence can can be greatly improved if not cured with proper treatment.

Common types

Although incontinence takes several forms, the most common types are stress and urge incontinence. In stress incontinence, a laugh, a cough or a sneeze may cause some urine to escape. Urge incontinence, on the other hand, is marked by bladder contractions that create a constant feeling of fullness. Sometimes the contractions are so strong that you can’t hold your urine long enough to reach a toilet.

Who is a candidate?

Any woman who has given birth vaginally or who has gone through menopause is at risk. Childbirth weakens the pelvic muscles, and the lack of estrogen after menopause further weakens muscle tone.

A look at treatment options

One of the most effective treatments for stress and urge incontinence—Kegel exercises—can be done anytime, anywhere. To perform a Kegel, pull in the same muscles you would use to stop urinating midstream and try holding the tension for seven to 10 seconds. Aim for three sets of 10 Kegels a day.

If Kegels alone don’t work, your healthcare provider may recommend more sophisticated treatments. Estrogen therapy can increase pelvic muscle strength, and other medications may relax the bladder and prevent spasms. A newer treatment involves having collagen injections near the base of the bladder. And several surgical methods, including tightening the pelvic muscles and elevating the bladder, may provide relief.

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