Diuretic: Drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, increase the urge to use the bathroom especially in the elderly. *MCT photo
Diuretic: Drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, increase the urge to use the bathroom especially in the elderly. *MCT photo

FRIDAY, JAN. 6: Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control and is a common problem thought to affect more than 50 million people in the developed world.

Symptoms can range from mild leaking to uncontrollable wetting.

It can happen to anyone, but is most commonly caused by ageing, pregnancy, being overweight and genetics.

Most bladder control problems happen when the muscles that keep the bladder closed are too weak or too active.

If the muscles are weak, you may have accidents when you sneeze, laugh or lift a heavy object.

This is stress incontinence.

If bladder muscles become too active, you may feel a strong urge to go to the bathroom when you have little urine in your bladder.

This is urge incontinence or overactive bladder.

If urinary incontinence affects your day-to-day activities, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

In most cases, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease your discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.

Even though it might be uncomfortable or embarrassing to talk about bladder problems, seeking medical advice is important as it may indicate a more serious underlying condition.

Lifestyle changes may significantly help some types of incontinence and include:

Changing how much you drink.

While you don’t want to risk dehydration, you also don’t want to over hydrate your body by drinking a lot of fluids, especially in a short period of time. 

If you drink large volumes, it’s only logical that you will pass more urine.

Changing what you drink and eat.

Drinks containing caffeine such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cola, as well as alcohol make urge incontinence worse as they are natural diuretics.

Diuretics are chemicals that make you need to pass urine.

In addition, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, corn syrup, and foods and beverages that are high in spice, sugar and acid, such as citrus and tomatoes, can aggravate your bladder.

Changing when you drink. You should try to maintain a normal life as much as possible with regard to drinking and visiting the toilet.

However, drinking late at night may mean your sleep is disturbed by the desire to get up and go to the toilet.

Weight loss. It has been shown that losing a modest amount of weight can improve urinary incontinence.

Even just 5 to10 per cent weight loss can help symptoms.

Avoiding constipation. The rectum is located near the bladder and shares many of the same nerves.

Hard, compacted stool in your rectum causes these nerves to be overactive and increase urinary frequency.

In addition, compacted stool can sometimes interfere with the emptying of the bladder, which may cause overflow incontinence.

Other treatments for urinary incontinence include physical therapy with exercises to strengthen the muscles that help control urination and medications which often are used in conjunction with other techniques.

Drugs commonly used to treat incontinence include anticholinergics, topical estrogen and some antidepressants.

In addition, there are several medical devices specifically designed for women available to help treat incontinence.

If medical treatments can’t completely eliminate your incontinence or you need help until a treatment starts to take effect, you can try products that help ease the discomfort and inconvenience of leaking urine.

Various absorbent pads are available to help you manage urine loss.

Most products are no more bulky than normal underwear, and you can wear them easily under everyday clothing.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy. For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm.