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Bladder Control

Myth Busters

Bladder problems affect millions of people in the UK and it’s important to seek advice from your doctor or healthcare professional.

However there are some things that you can do to help manage urinary incontinence:

  • Healthy diet - Extra weight can add pressure into the bladder or the urethra, causing additional leaks.
  • Fluid intake - Try to drink at least 6-8 glasses (1.5-2 litres) of water every day.
  • Practise pelvic floor exercises

Although you may feel embarrassed about seeking help, it’s a good idea to see your GP/continence nurse if you have any symptoms of urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is a common problem and seeing your GP/continence nurse can be the first step towards finding a way to effectively manage the problem.

Type of urinary incontinence

Stress

Symptoms: Small leakage when coughing, sneezing, physical exertion or exercise. Can be caused by weak pelvic floor muscles which no longer support the bladder neck. Common during and after pregnancy. Less common in men but may occur after prostate surgery.

Urge

Symptoms: Leakage after sudden intense uncontrollable urge to pass urine. Feeling of frequency to void. Caused by bladder contracting during the filling stage.

Mixed

Symptoms: Combination of stress and urge incontinence.

Overflow

Symptoms: Chronic urinary retention – symptoms are likely to be similar to stress and urge, plus a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying. Can be caused by constipation, faecal impaction, and neurological disorder. If this occurs in men, may be due to an enlarged prostate.

Functional

Symptoms: Factors which can affect the person’s ability to reach the toilet on time, resulting in leakage of urine e.g. poor mobility, dexterity problems and environmental factors e.g. inaccessible toilet.

Passive/reflex

Symptoms: Passing urine without warning with no obvious reason.

We have collected a range of myths and facts about bladder control that might help clear up some uncertainties or questions you may have on this subject. The important thing to remember is that bladder weakness often can be treated with good results. If you are uncertain about what treatment would be best for you, we recommend you talk to your continence advisor or urologist to get help and advice.

Myth: Bladder problems only affect older people

Young people, both men and women, can be affected by bladder weakness, for a variety of reasons. Although there are several aspects of aging (menopause and prostate conditions) which can have an effect on bladder health the phenomenon is definitely not limited to our grandparents.

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Fact: Bladder Training might help

Bladder training is a first step that may help some people with overactive bladders. You resist the first urge to go and wait for the scheduled time. Gradually, you can try holding on longer. Another approach is to perform pelvic floor exercises, and these two methods together can sometimes substantially cut overactive bladder episodes. Talk to your continence advisor or urologist on how to get started.

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Myth: Small Bladder, Large Problems

Some people blame a small bladder for frequent leaks, but your body's normal "capacity" is rarely the true cause of a problem with bladder weakness. In healthy people, that capacity ranges from one to two cups of fluid. The real issue is more likely to be weak muscles, medication side effects, infection, or damage to the nerves — and effective treatments could be available.

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Fact: A Healthy Bladder in a Healthy Body

A healthy lifestyle may play a supportive role in preventing and lessening some bladder problems. Doctors say getting regular physical activity and doing pelvic floor exercises can reduce stress incontinence, the leakage caused by coughing, laughing, or sneezing. Smoking less, or, even better, stop smoking altogether will reduce extensive coughing which also has an effect on bladder weakness.

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Myth: Drinking Less Is Best

Waving off the waiter when he tries to refill your glass may help a little. But doctors say a fully functioning bladder should be able to handle a normal fluid intake. You might want to consider downsizing that morning cup of coffee or skipping the cola and having a glass of water instead, because caffeine is a bladder stimulant.

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Myth: Bladder Problems Are a Fact of Life

If bladder problems are bothering you, talk with your health-care provider. Incontinence is a medical problem -- not an inevitable part of aging. Treatments will depend on a person’s specific problem and overall health, and people who seek help often see improvements in their symptoms resulting in improvements to their day-to-day life.

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