Urinary incontinence is an embarrassing condition affecting more than 200 million people globally. Characterized by bladder leakage, painful urination, strong urge to urinate and incomplete emptying of the bladder, the condition can negatively impact the quality of life of affected individuals by restricting their ability to participate in various activities. Riddled with several misconceptions and accompanied by considerable stigma, bladder leakage is a highly misunderstood condition that even those affected do not want to talk about. Yet by debunking some of the myths associated with the condition and establishing a clearer understanding of the problem, affected individuals can get on the right track for healthy and happy bladder management. Here are four of the more common myths about urinary incontinence:
Myth 1: Only the elderly experience urinary incontinence.
Even though the risk of urinary incontinence increases with age, virtually any person can experience incontinence at any stage of life. For instance, bladder weakness typically affects 1 in every 3 women above the age of 18 with many young women experiencing sensitive bladder symptoms after pregnancy and labor. Urinary incontinence can also result from an enlarged prostate, nerve damage, weakened pelvic muscles, medical conditions such as obesity, onset of menopause in women due to a drop in estrogen levels, infection, and as a side effect of certain medications.
Myth 2: Reducing fluid intake reduces urinary incontinence.
Limiting fluid intake may sound like a brilliant idea since drinking plenty of water increases the frequency and urgency of urination. However, it has been shown that drinking adequate amounts of fluid in small doses throughout the day helps to prevent leakage. In fact, severe limitation of fluid intake can make urine more concentrated, increasing the risk of bladder irritation and worsening urinary incontinence. Drinking enough water also helps to reduce odors. Doctors recommend that you sip water between meals, avoid fluids for two hours before bed, and reduce or avoid citrus juices, caffeine, carbonated beverages and alcohol.
Myth 3: Surgery is a necessary treatment for urinary incontinence.
While surgery is one effective treatment for incontinence, it comes with more risks than other treatment options. For instance, invasive surgical procedures such as sling surgery and retropubic suspension have associated risks such as difficulty urinating and worsened incontinence. Therefore, affected individuals should always be offered the option of trying nonsurgical treatment first and only opt for surgery when nonsurgical options fail. In fact, for most people, simple lifestyle changes, medications for relaxing the bladder and treating urinary infections, medical devices like pessaries, weight loss, dietary changes, and pelvic floor muscle exercises provide considerable improvement in symptoms. Surgery should only be considered as a last resort.
Myth 4: Delaying urination strengthens the pelvic floor.
While many think that delaying going to the bathroom can help to strengthen the pelvic floor, the truth is that this can overstretch the bladder, resulting in a flaccid and dysfunctional bladder. Therefore, for a person living with urinary incontinence, it is important to avoid actions that may weaken your bladder and instead seek immediate medical treatment. Remember, urinary incontinence may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that requires a prompt visit to a urologist. So stop living quietly with urinary incontinence and thinking that you can crudely wish it away. Talk to your doctor about what could be causing the problem and what might be the best individual treatment option for you. For more information on managing urinary incontinence, visit the St Pete Urology website or make an appointment for a consultation with a urologist.