A Guide to Managing Total Urinary Incontinence

Overcoming Total Incontinence: The Expert Advice & Strategies You Need

Dealing with total incontinence can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and strategies, it's possible to regain control and improve your quality of life. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore what total incontinence is, its causes, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment options, management techniques, and even prevention strategies. Whether you're someone experiencing total incontinence or you're caring for a loved one, this article will provide valuable insights and expert advice.

What is Total Incontinence?

Total incontinence refers to the complete inability to control urinary or fecal discharge. Unlike other forms of incontinence, where there might be some degree of control or leakage, total incontinence involves a complete loss of control over bladder and bowel functions.

How Common is Total Incontinence?

Total incontinence is relatively rare compared to other types of incontinence. According to recent studies, it affects approximately 5% of the adult population. The condition becomes more prevalent with age, with the average age of onset being around 65 years old. While total incontinence can occur in both men and women, it tends to be slightly more common in women. Total incontinence is more prevalent in women as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.

Causes of Total Incontinence

Total incontinence can have various underlying causes, including:

  • Urinary Tract Disorders: Conditions like bladder stones, bladder cancer, and chronic urinary tract infections can contribute to total incontinence.
  • Neurological Conditions: Nerve damage caused by conditions such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and Parkinson's disease can lead to loss of bladder and bowel control.
  • Anatomical Abnormalities: Congenital defects, such as an enlarged prostate or menopause, or surgical complications, can result in structural issues that lead to total incontinence.
  • Bladder Fistula: This is when a small hole forms between the bladder and a nearby area, such as the vagina, limiting the ability to hold urine.
  • Lack of Mobility: Total incontinence can be exacerbated or caused by a lack of mobility. People who are bedridden or have limited mobility may struggle to reach a bathroom in time, leading to episodes of total incontinence.
  • Blood Pressure: While high blood pressure (hypertension) itself may not directly cause total incontinence, extremely high blood pressure or hypertensive crises can lead to severe complications, including urinary urgency or incontinence in some cases.
  • Other Disorders: Total incontinence can also be associated with other medical disorders, including but not limited to:
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes affect the urinary system, potentially leading to total incontinence as a rare complication.
  • Connective Tissue Disorders: Disorders that affect connective tissues throughout the body may also impact the structural integrity of the bladder and surrounding organs, contributing to total incontinence.
  • Medication Reactions: Some individuals may experience total incontinence as a rare side effect or allergic reaction to certain medications used to treat unrelated medical conditions.
  • Psychological Disorders: Certain psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia or severe anxiety disorders, can interfere with an individual's ability to control their bladder and may result in total incontinence.

Risk Factors for Total Incontinence

Recognizing the risk factors and early warning signs can help in managing and treating total incontinence effectively. Here are some risk factors that make individuals more likely to experience total incontinence

  • Age: As mentioned earlier, total incontinence becomes more common as you age.
  • Gender: While it affects both genders, it is slightly more prevalent in women. After menopause, women produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy.
  • Pregnancy and Childbirth: Research shows incontinence is very prominent in aging mothers due to shifting hips and permanent (or potentially permanent) alterations to the "plumbing" post menopause. Women who have experienced multiple pregnancies or difficult childbirths may be at a higher risk for urine leaks due to weakened pelvic floor muscles.
  • Neurological or Medical Conditions: Any condition that affects the nervous system can increase the risk of total incontinence and urine leakage.

How Total Incontinence is Diagnosed

If you suspect you have total incontinence, seeking a medical diagnosis is crucial. A healthcare professional will typically conduct a thorough evaluation that may include some of the following:

  • Physical Examination: This might involve checking for anatomical abnormalities and neurological issues.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays, ultrasounds, or other imaging techniques may be used to assess the urinary and digestive systems.
  • Urodynamic Testing: These tests measure how well your bladder and urethra store and release urine.
  • Voiding Diary: You may be asked to keep track of how often you pass urine.
  • Cough Stress Test: This test is done to determine whether you are dealing with stress incontinence.
  • Post-void Residual Urine Measurement: This test is done to determine how much urine remains in your bladder after voiding

With the results of those tests, a healthcare professional will be able to offer a diagnosis.

How is Total Incontinence Treated?

Treatment options for total incontinence depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.

  • Medications: In some cases, medications such as diuretic blood pressure meds can help manage the symptoms of total incontinence. In other cases, stopping the use of certain medications can also help.
  • Surgery or Botox: Surgical interventions or procedures like Botox or a hysterectomy may be considered to correct anatomical abnormalities or restore bladder and bowel function.
  • Nerve Stimulation and Bladder Training: Techniques like sacral nerve stimulation and kegel exercises can help regulate bladder and bowel activity.

Ways to Manage Total Incontinence

Since those with total incontinence have little to no control over their bladder or bowel movements, living with this type of incontinence requires effective management strategies.

Product Selection

Total incontinence leads to a high likelihood of accidents, which means using the right products is the absolute most important step in managing symptoms. 

  • Incontinence Products: Invest in high-quality absorbent pads, briefs, or underwear designed for total incontinence. Instead of purchasing low-quality products from the nearest convenience store, choose an affordable, premium diaper or brief. Premium products offer more absorbency, softer materials, and a higher level of comfort. At Parentgiving, we offer the top brands, best products, and expert incontinence advice to keep you and your loved ones comfortable and happy.
  • Skin Care Products: With constant leakage, skin protection is critical. Use barrier creams and cleansing wipes to prevent skin issues.

Lifestyle Changes

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help manage total incontinence:

    • Dietary Modifications: Avoid certain foods and beverages that can irritate the bladder or worsen symptoms.
    • Weight Management: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can alleviate pressure on the bladder and pelvic area.
  • Overnight Management: Scheduling voiding can be helpful for nighttime management including limiting salt intake after 6pm and taking blood pressure medications in the morning instead of evening. 
  • Scheduled Voiding

    If individuals have any bladder control, establishing a regular bathroom schedule can help reduce accidents. 

    Environmental Changes

    Modifying your environment in the following ways can make daily life more manageable: 

    • Accessibility: Ensure easy access to bathrooms and consider installing handrails for support.
    • Waterproofing: Use waterproof mattress covers and furniture protectors to prevent damage.

    Assistive Devices

    • Catheters: Intermittent catheterization can help empty the bladder effectively.
    • Absorbent Bedding: Invest in waterproof bedding to protect your mattress.

    Best Products for Total Incontinence

    When it comes to managing incontinence, having the right products can make a significant difference. This is especially true with total incontinence because having no bladder or bowel control leads to more accidents.

    Maximum Absorbency Adult Diapers & Underwear

    Dry Direct Ultimate Protective Underwear: As Dry Direct’s flagship underwear, this leakproof product is exceptionally soft and comfortable. Premium underwear like this offers leak guards, odor protection, breathability, and maximum absorption. In fact, this underwear is absorbent enough to be used for up to 10 hours at a time. Plus, it’s designed to accommodate both urinary and bowel incontinence.

    Depend on Men Fit-Flex Maximum Absorbency Underwear: Similar to conventional underwear in design, this Depends product is simple to put on and take off. Stretchy, soft material gently shapes the body. Built-in Ultra Absorb-Loc offers worry-free odor management where it’s needed most. Plus, the leg holes resemble briefs and are designed to fit like regular underwear.

    Attends Pull-Up Underwear: The high-performance DermaDry Technology used in Attends Underwear locks in moisture and keeps skin dry and healthy. Without taking off outer clothing, this disposable underwear may be put on or taken off with ease thanks to the soft, quilted elastic waistband.

    Dry Direct Extra (Daytime Use) Underwear: This premium incontinence underwear features a low-profile silhouette, super soft components, leak guards, and 100% breathability. With such great absorbency, this underwear can be used during the day or overnight. The quality of this product is evident in the leg cuffs and tall leak guards, which aid in both urinary and fecal incontinence.

    Bladder Control Pads

    Dry Direct Overnight Bladder Control Pads: Designed to be worn inside of regular underwear, this pad is perfect for overnight use. As our highest rated pad, it features luxuriously soft and comfortable fabric. However, it is at an affordable price point, making it the perfect option for those with total incontinence.

    Attends Shaped Pads Super Plus Bladder Control Pad Heavy Absorbency: Attends Shaped Pads range from heavy to severe. They are made with breathable materials to keep you comfortable and ConfidenceCuff Protection to prevent leaks around the legs. These pads also feature unique odor-controlling qualities.

    Bed Pads & Underpads

    TotalDry Underpads 30 x 36: With its soft, quilted material and TotalDry incontinence technology, this underpad offers the greatest level of surface protection. These underpads quickly remove moisture from the body while providing the greatest level of furniture protection. The TotalDry underpads are ideal for usage in homes or businesses.

    Tranquility Heavy Duty Underpads: Providing 7.5 square feet of incontinence protection and absorbing up to one full quart of liquid, this underpad is perfect for mattresses and other furniture. 

    Ways to Prevent Total Incontinence

    While some causes of total incontinence are beyond your control, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

    • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity can contribute to bladder and pelvic floor issues.
    • Pelvic Floor Exercises: Regularly practice pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles that control bladder and bowel function.

    FAQs About Total Incontinence

    What Other Types of Incontinence Are There?

    Total incontinence is just one type of incontinence. Other types include: 

    • Stress incontinence
    • Urge incontinence
    • Overflow incontinence
    • Functional incontinence
    • Mixed incontinence
    • Psychogenic incontinence

    Are There Any Resources With More Information About Total Incontinence?

    For more information and support, you can reach out to medical professionals, support groups, and organizations dedicated to incontinence management and education. Your healthcare provider can guide you to reliable resources tailored to your needs.

    Manage All Types of Urinary Incontinence with Parentgiving

    Total incontinence might pose challenges, but with the right strategies and support, you can regain control and lead a fulfilling life. 

    Parentgiving is here to provide you with all the incontinence supplies you need to manage total incontinence.