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Urinary Incontinence

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is urinary incontinence (UI)?

Urinary incontinence (UI) is when you lose control of your bladder. UI develops because your bladder cannot store or empty urine properly. The 3 most common types of UI are stress incontinence, urge incontinence, or both.

What are the signs and symptoms of UI?

  • You feel like your bladder does not empty completely when you urinate.
  • You urinate often and need to urinate immediately.
  • You leak urine when you sleep, or you wake up with the urge to urinate.
  • You leak urine when you cough, sneeze, exercise, or laugh.

How is UI treated?

  • Medicines can help strengthen your bladder control.
  • Electrical stimulation is used to send a small amount of electrical energy to your pelvic floor muscles. This helps control your bladder function. Electrodes may be placed outside your body or in your rectum. For women, the electrodes may be placed in the vagina.
  • A bulking agent may be injected into the wall of your urethra to make it thicker. This helps keep your urethra closed and decreases urine leakage.
  • Devices such as a clamp, pessary, or tampon may help stop urine leaks. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other devices.
  • Surgery may be needed if other treatments do not work. Several types of surgery can help improve your bladder control. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the surgery you may need.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Do pelvic muscle exercises often. Your pelvic muscles help you stop urinating. Squeeze these muscles tight for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds. Gradually work up to squeezing for 10 seconds. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions a day, or as directed. This will help strengthen your pelvic muscles and improve bladder control.
  • Keep a UI record. Write down how often you leak urine and how much you leak. Make a note of what you were doing when you leaked urine.
  • Train your bladder. Go to the bathroom at set times, such as every 2 hours, even if you do not feel the urge to go. You can also try to hold your urine when you feel the urge to go. For example, hold your urine for 5 minutes when you feel the urge to go. As that becomes easier, hold your urine for 10 minutes.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may need to limit the amount of liquid you drink to help control your urine leakage. Do not drink any liquid right before you go to bed. Limit or do not have drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • Prevent constipation. Eat a variety of high-fiber foods. Good examples are high-fiber cereals, beans, vegetables, and whole-grain breads. Prune juice may help make your bowel movement softer. Walking is the best way to trigger your intestines to have a bowel movement.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh and about the best exercise plan for you. Weight loss and exercise will decrease pressure on your bladder and help you control your leakage. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Use a catheter as directed to help empty your bladder. A catheter is a tiny, plastic tube that is put into your bladder to drain your urine. Your healthcare provider may tell you to use a catheter to prevent your bladder from getting too full and leaking urine.
  • Go to behavior therapy as directed. Behavior therapy may be used to help you learn to control your urge to urinate.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have severe pain.
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.
  • You have a fever.
  • You see blood in your urine.
  • You have pain when you urinate.
  • You have new or worse pain, even after treatment.
  • Your mouth feels dry or you have vision changes.
  • Your urine is cloudy or smells bad.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Urinary Incontinence

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Symptoms and treatments

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