Incontinence Management: Tips to Improve Quality of Life
Incontinence can be a difficult condition to manage. It can cause embarrassment, physical discomfort, and disruptions in daily activities. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help improve the quality of life for those living with incontinence.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Incontinence
One of the most important aspects of managing incontinence is making lifestyle changes. From dieting and physical activity to behavioral therapy, even simple changes can make a significant impact, regardless of whether you’re managing fecal incontinence or a type of urinary incontinence.
- Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Obesity can add strain to the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, which can worsen incontinence. Losing excess weight can ease symptoms.
- Timed Voiding: Developing a regular bathroom routine helps to prevent accidents and keeps the bladder empty throughout the day. While sticking to a regular schedule can be helpful, gradually increasing the time between bathroom trips can strengthen bladder muscle and help improve urinary control. This is known as bladder training.
- Kegel Exercises: Regularly contracting and relaxing pelvic floor muscles can help improve bladder control, especially for women.
- Avoiding Triggers: Certain foods, beverages, or activities may trigger incontinence episodes. Keeping a log of triggers can help identify patterns and prevent accidents. Incontinence can also be a side effect of certain medications, including diuretics and antidepressants.
- Making Changes to Your Diet: Eating more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help bulk up and soften stools, making them easier to pass. Avoiding dairy products, which can cause diarrhea, may also be beneficial.
- Increasing Water Intake: Staying properly hydrated can help keep stools loose and easier to pass, reducing constipation.
- Regular Exercise: A regular exercise routine can help build strength in the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, aiding in fecal control.
- Practicing Good Hygiene: Properly cleaning the anal area after a bowel movement can help prevent skin irritation or infection.
- Biofeedback Treatment: According to the National Library of Medicine, biofeedback training uses electrical devices to retrain the bowel muscles, giving you more voluntary control.
Best Incontinence Management Products
One of the most common (and effective) ways to manage incontinence is to use the right products. Instead of using generic brands, opting for a premium incontinence product can make a world of difference.
Below are some types of incontinence products that can help you manage your symptoms.
- Absorbent Undergarments: Incontinence pads and adult diapers are designed to absorb urine without leaking. They come in a variety of styles, sizes, and absorbency levels.
- Bed Pads: A bed pad can be placed on the mattress or bedding to protect against accidents during sleep.
- Chux Pads: Chux pads are waterproof pads that can be placed on furniture or bedding to protect from urine accidents.
- Underpads: These are absorbent pads that can be placed on furniture or bedding to help keep skin dry.
- High-Absorbency Diapers: Look for high-absorbency diapers or briefs that are designed specifically to manage fecal accidents. It’s also important to choose the right size and fit in order to ensure the best protection and comfort.
- Disposable Pads: Consider using disposable pads underneath clothing, as these can provide additional protection from accidents. You can also look into using waterproof bedding to protect furniture and mattresses from soiling.
- Incontinence Wipes: Specialized adult wipes such as flushable ones may be useful for cleaning up messes quickly and easily.
Managing Incontinence With Medication & Surgery
The treatment options for incontinence depend on the type and severity of it, as well as the person's overall health and preferences.
Medications for incontinence can be prescribed by your healthcare provider to relax the bladder or increase bladder capacity. These prescription drugs stabilize the muscle contractions that cause problems with an overactive bladder. Commonly prescribed drugs for incontinence include:
- Anticholinergics: These drugs are frequently used to alleviate an overactive bladder and can be beneficial for urge incontinence. Examples of anticholinergics include oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), tolterodine (Detrol), darifenacin (Enablex), fesoterodine (Toviaz), solifenacin (Vesicare), and trospium chloride.
- Mirabegron (Myrbetriq): This medication is prescribed to treat urge incontinence by relaxing the muscles in the bladder, allowing it to hold more urine. It may also enhance the volume of urine expelled during each urination, aiding in more complete bladder emptying.
- Alpha-Blockers: These medications are used in men experiencing urge incontinence or overflow incontinence. They work by relaxing the muscles in the bladder neck, as well as the muscle fibers in the prostate, facilitating easier bladder emptying. Examples of alpha-blockers include tamsulosin (Flomax), alfuzosin (Uroxatral), silodosin (Rapaflo), and doxazosin (Cardura).
- Topical Estrogen: The application of low-dose, topical estrogen in the form of a vaginal cream, ring, or patch can help tone and revitalize tissues in the urethra and vaginal areas. This approach may be beneficial in the management of incontinence.
- Neuromodulation Devices: Pacemakers that stimulate the nerves to the bladder to improve control can be implanted.
- Bulking Agents: This treatment option is an injection that’s typically used in women with urinary stress incontinence.
- Sling procedures
- Bladder neck suspension
- Artificial urethral sphincter
Botulinum toxin A, also known as Botox, nerve stimulation, and electrical stimulation, are other procedures that are available to temporarily paralyze pelvic muscles. However, you may need multiple treatments over time to achieve optimal results. Depending on your level of incontinence, these treatments can be very beneficial to improving bladder control problems and reducing urine leakage.