Types of UI
Some types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence occurs from weakened or damaged urethral, sphincter or pelvic floor muscles. It causes small amounts of urine to leak from coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting objects, rising from a chair, and other physical movements.
- Urge incontinence occurs when the bladder contracts too often. It causes a large amount of urine to leak at unexpected times, such as during sleep, often with a strong, sudden urge to urinate.
- Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder overfills. It causes small amounts of urine to leak frequently throughout the day.
- Overactive bladder occurs when the bladder's muscle contracts involuntarily. It causes urinary frequency and urgency.
- Mixed incontinence occurs as a combination of several types of incontinence, usually stress and urge incontinence.
- Transient incontinence occurs as a temporary incontinence, because of a situation that will pass, such as infection, a new medication, or severe constipation.
Treatment for UI
Treatment for UI depends on the type, severity, and cause of the problem, and may include a combination of approaches. Fortunately, there are new techniques in cancer treatment that can help lessen damage to the bladder valves. However, if it does occur, there are ways to manage the challenges of UI.
Your doctor may also recommend biofeedback methods or behavioral techniques, like bladder retraining and pelvic floor exercises. Some medications may help to reduce bladder muscle contractions and block the nerve signals that cause urination urgency and frequency. Also, surgical techniques may be used to treat some severe cases of UI.
Additionally, there are products available, such as absorbent pads, to help hide any leakage that occurs so you can remain active and comfortable. Also, diet and lifestyle changes may help to lesson the impact of UI.
Maintaining Your Quality of Life with UI
UI can have a significant impact on your quality of life. Embarrassment, fear, and anxiety about urine leakage may keep you from doing things you love, like dining out and other activities. This may cause you to miss out on valuable time with friends and family.
Fortunately, even if the incontinence cannot be completely corrected, you can learn how to manage it so you can continue to participate in activities you enjoy.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS REPORT ANY SIGNS OF URINARY INCONTINENCE TO YOUR PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY.
Tips for Managing UI During Cancer Treatment
- Stick to a urination schedule. Setting routine times to urinate (e.g., every two hours) can help retrain the bladder. Instead of waiting for your bladder to feel full, use the bathroom at regular timed intervals. After you've finished urinating, relax for a few moments, and then urinate again. Timed urination helps keep the bladder empty. Remember that it may take some time to find a schedule that works for you.
- Keep a bladder diary. A bladder diary can be a useful tool to identify the type of incontinence you have. Keep a record of what you drank and what time you drank it. Also record how many times you urinated, as well as any urine-leaking episodes and what led up to it. Bring the diary to your doctor, who may be able to see a pattern and provide treatment recommendations.
- Prepare ahead. Empty your bladder (even if you don’t think you need to) before leaving the house, getting in the car, or going to bed. Locate bathrooms when you arrive at places outside of your home, such as restaurants. Also, clear your path of obstacles so you can get to the restroom faster and easier. Wear clothes that are easily removed, such as pants with elastic waistbands. Women may find it helps to wear a tampon during activities, as it puts pressure on the urethra to prevent leakage.
- Try bladder retraining techniques. Bladder retraining can help increase your bladder capacity so it can hold more urine for longer periods of time. Instead of urinating whenever you feel the urge, try to wait a few minutes and gradually lengthen the time between bathroom trips. You may aim to urinate at set times of the day, such as once every hour, and eventually build up to once every three to four hours.
- Strengthen your pelvic muscles. Pelvic floor exercises, called Kegels, can help strengthen the muscles that control urination. Try to tighten the muscles you use to start and stop the flow of urination, hold for a count of three, and then release. Gradually work up to three sets of 10 repeats in different positions (lying down, sitting, or standing). Your health care team can advise how to perform the exercises correctly.
- Try biofeedback. Biofeedback can help you become aware of your body’s functioning so you learn how to control your pelvic muscles and bladder. With biofeedback, electronic devices measure when you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Keeping track of when your bladder and urethral muscles contract may help you control the muscles you use to urinate.
- Try electrical stimulation.Your health care team may recommend small doses of electrical stimulation to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The electrical current stimulates and contracts the muscles, which may help to relieve some types of urinary incontinence.
- Balance your fluid intake. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance of fluids. Drinking too much fluid can cause bladder leakage. Not drinking enough fluid can cause dehydration, which can irritate your bladder and further aggravate UI. Try to drink small amounts throughout the day, rather than large amounts at one time. Also, drink more at the start of the day and less before you go to bed.
- Stay away from certain vices. Alcohol and caffeine can be irritating to the bladder. To reduce urination urgency, it’s important to limit your intake of alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea, and some carbonated drinks. Also, don’t smoke. Not only is smoking discouraged for health reasons, it can lead to coughing, which can exacerbate urine leakage.
- Make dietary modifications. Some foods can irritate your bladder and aggravate UI. Limit your intake of dairy products, acidic foods (e.g., citrus fruits, tomatoes), spicy foods, vinegars, chocolate, sugar, and artificial sweeteners. Drink more water, apple juice, grape juice, and cranberry juice. If constipation is a problem, increase the amount of fiber in your diet.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Since obesity can increase the risk of urine leakage, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. And, although you may not want to exercise for fear of urine leakage, try to get in some regular physical activity. You may also consider joining a support group to share your feelings with others in similar situations.
- Talk with your doctor. In order to find the best treatment for UI, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your doctor. Talk with your doctor about the medications you are taking, as some of them may make your incontinence worse. Remember, there is no one right way to cope with incontinence. You need to find what works best for you.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER REGARDING URINARY INCONTINENCE DURING AND AFTER CANCER TREATMENT.
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