Incontinence can be embarrassing. If you suffer from incontinence, you may find yourself being less confident about taking part in certain activities, or shying away from social situations and sticking close to home - all because you are afraid of not being able to control your bladder. But the good news is that incontinence can be managed. Here's how you can take control of your incontinence and stop letting it get in the way of your life.
The first step in taking control of incontinence is to talk to your doctor. Before your doctor's visit, make a note of your symptoms and how they affect your life. You may wish to use the Urinary Incontinence Assessment to help you with this. You can print off your results and bring them to your appointment. Write down any questions you'd like to ask the doctor.
The next step is to work with your doctor to discover what is causing your incontinence. Your doctor will ask you some questions about your symptoms and may recommend blood tests, urine tests, cystoscopy (where a small tube is inserted into the bladder to check for anything abnormal), post-void residual (PVR) measurement (where an ultrasound or a small tube inserted in the bladder is used to see how much urine is left after you urinate), or a stress test (where you are asked to cough or perform an activity that puts stress on your bladder muscles to find out if this causes urine leakage). Your doctor may also ask you to fill out a bladder diary to keep track of your fluid intake and urination for several days. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend other tests as well.
When your doctor has found the cause of your incontinence, the next step is for you and your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. Sometimes, a few simple lifestyle changes (such as cutting back on caffeine and drinking less fluid before bedtime) can be enough to get your incontinence under control. If this is not the case, there are many different treatment options available, including absorbent products, medications, exercises, medical devices, and surgery. To learn more, see the Incontinence Channel.
Once you have a treatment plan, it's time to put that plan into action and stop letting incontinence get in the way of your life! Following your treatment plan can help you manage your incontinence and regain the confidence to get back to the activities you enjoy. Ask your doctor how long your treatment should take to work and how much improvement you should expect.
To get the most out of treatment, follow your doctor's instructions for any exercises, devices, or medications that are part of your treatment plan. If you are using absorbent products, find one that fits your needs and lifestyle. Keep enough supply with you so that you can change them regularly to stay fresh. If you have any questions about how your treatment is working, check with your doctor.
And finally, remember that you're not alone! Talking to a friend or family member, your doctor, or others with incontinence (find a support group) can help you along your journey towards taking control.