Your options for treatment depend on three things: what type of incontinence you have, how severe it is, and what’s causing it. You may need more than one treatment. It is likely your doctor will recommend the least invasive treatments first (listed below). If these lifestyle changes do not work, your doctor may move on to other options.9,10
Managing What You Drink. One method for reducing urinary incontinence is to keep track of the fluids you drink. Drinks like fruit juices, and caffeine containing drinks such as colas, coffee and tea can irritate the bladder so your doctor may recommend limiting those. Your doctor may also recommend drinking six to eight glasses of water per day, which can help reduce bladder irritation.2,10
Bladder Training. Keeping track of how often you urinate, when you have leakage and what you’ve been drinking is the first step toward training your bladder. Your doctor may recommend you keep a journal to record the details. If you don’t usually urinate often enough, he or she may also recommend visiting the bathroom every one to two hours when you are awake. By regularly emptying your bladder, leaking should become less of a problem, particularly with stress incontinence and urge incontinence.2, 3,10,11
Bladder Retraining. With this technique, you may also use a journal to record the details of when you urinate. The goal here is to reduce frequency. Your doctor may suggest you slowly increase the time between bathroom visits by 15 to 30 minutes per week. You try to extend the time between visits so that you are going only every two to four hours (while awake). This can help reduce urgency and incontinence.2, 3,10,11
Kegel Exercises. The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder neck, rectum and vagina. Dr. Kegel in 1948 suggested using exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor. Like any exercise, they must be done regularly to remain effective. With this technique, you contract or tighten the pelvic floor muscles, which are the same muscles you use to hold urine or stop urine flow. Hold the muscles tight for two seconds and then relax for two. If this is easy, try holding for five seconds and relaxing for five. Repeat this cycle ten times and do this three times per day. If you have trouble figuring out how to tighten these muscles, your doctor can help.2, 3,10,11
If none of these therapies help, your doctor may recommend other treatments as well. These include:
Medications. Some drugs help with incontinence by either tightening the bladder neck or allowing the bladder muscle to relax. If you are a women who has become incontinent after menopause, hormone treatments may help. All drugs carry risks and possible side effects, so your doctor will need to guide you to the right choice.2, 3,10,11
Medical Devices. There are devices designed for women with incontinence that can bring you relief. Some options include a urethral insert which is temporary and acts as a plug to prevent leakage or a pessary which is worn all day. It helps support your bladder to prevent leakage.3, 9,10
Interventional Therapies. Some examples include injections of bulking material to help keep the urethra closed and reduce leaking. Botox and nerve stimulators which may help some people by activating nerves to control urge incontinence.3, 9,10
Surgery. There are also surgical options if other treatments don’t work for you. These include the use of slings to create more support for the urethra and bladder and/or the use of inserted devices to control the flow of urine.3, 9,10,11
Other Options. Absorbent pads are often no more bulky than regular underwear and are very effective at capturing leaks. If you are incontinent because your bladder does not empty properly, you may need to learn to use a catheter. Your doctor will show you how to insert this soft tube into your urethra to drain your bladder.1, 3, 9,10
If you and your doctor have tried medical treatments but haven’t been able to stop your incontinence, there are other products you may wish to try. Ask your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits of any of these treatments mentioned above with you and help you find the appropriate treatment for you.
Left untreated, urinary incontinence is a condition that can be upsetting and isolating. If you’re suffering from leakage, be sure to visit your doctor. He or she can work with you to find the treatment that will allow you to resume your normal activities.2
Please note that this information provided by BARD Medical is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a medical professional. Information is as of 12/2014. Please check references for updated information.