Urinary incontinence is the unintentional loss of urine, a problem which is estimated to affect one in six adults. It can be difficult to discuss urinary symptoms openly, but it is important for women to speak out, seek advice and take control of their bladder.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
This usually occurs when the bladder is under pressure by physical activity, such as sneezing, coughing and laughing. Pregnancy and childbirth can also cause this form of incontinence.
This is when you have a sudden and strong need to urinate, which is then followed by an involuntary loss of urine. This can occur at any time, however, it is more common as you age.
"There's no need to feel embarrassed"
It's difficult to discuss concerns of a personal nature, but incontinence is likely to be more common than you think. Around one third of adults will experience some urinary problem at different stages of their lives.
To understand what type of incontinence you are suffering from, it’s best to book an appointment with your GP, who can review your symptoms and run a couple of routine tests to check there is no sign of infection. In some cases, you can however, have a combination of both incontinence issues.
Depending on what your ability is to control your bladder, a lot of cases of incontinence can be resolved through various lifestyle changes.
If you are experiencing incontinence
The following lifestyle changes may help:
- Cut down on caffeine – Food and drink which contains a lot of caffeine, such as chocolate, tea and coffee is one of the main triggers of an overactive bladder.
- Avoid certain alcohol – If you are at a BBQ this summer try and avoid certain drinks. Alcohol which is high in acidity, such as white wine, can irritate the bladder and make leaks and other incontinence symptoms worse.
- Stay hydrated – It is important to stay hydrated all year round, but it is particularly important in the summer during the hot weather. Many people with urinary incontinence think it is better to restrict their fluid intake; however, dehydration can irritate your bladder and make your incontinence worse.
- Lose weight and eat a healthy diet – Being overweight means you are more likely to weaken your pelvic floor muscles and experience problems with incontinence. Try and avoid foods containing a lot of salt and choose a fresh salad instead.
- Exercise – Certain exercises can be extremely beneficial and can help prevent leaks. Try various pelvic floor exercises that will strengthen the muscles around your bladder. Our women's health Physiotherapists can help treat a range of conditions including pelvic floor weakness and they will assist and advise you on the best course of action for your symptoms following a thorough assessment.
- Don’t smoke – Smoking causes chronic coughing, which can damage the muscles of the pelvic floor and weaken your bladder.
- Suzie Venn - Consultant Urologist at Nuffield Health Chichester Hospital
- Angela Birnie - Consultant Urologist at Nuffield Health Chichester Hospital
Last updated Wednesday 7 April 2021
First published on Thursday 30 May 2019