It’s Not Just You: 30% of 30-Year-Olds Suffer From Incontinence
INCONTINENCE: KNOW THE SCORE
It may not sound sexy but now you know that it’s not just your grandmother who’s at risk, it’s time to get serious about urinary incontinence.
Incontinence is basically the involuntary leakage of urine. How much comes out is anyone’s guess. Think anything from a few drops to a mortifying complete emptying of the bladder.
“For women who experience incontinence, life is restricted,” says Dr Lakhani. “They likely won’t want to exercise or go out – in case of leakage. Over time this can lead to weight gain, reduced confidence and depression.”
THE FOUR MAIN TYPES OF URINARY INCONTINENCE?
“This is caused by a build-up of pressure in the abdomen, for example when you run or sneeze,” Dr Lakhani says.
“This is when you get a sudden urge to go to the loo and if you don’t go there and then, you can leak – even if your bladder is not full,” says Dr Lakhani. “It is the result of overactive bladder muscles.”
“If you experience both stress and urge incontinence, you are said to have this type of incontinence,” Dr Lakhani says.
“This is not very common but arises if someone has a neurological condition such as MS, and no longer registers when their bladder is full,” Dr Lakhani says.
Of the women known to experience incontinence, stress incontinence and mixed incontinence are thought to be the most common, affecting around 50% and 35% of women respectively. In short, it’s a lot more common than you think.
THE CAUSES OF INCONTINENCE
Well, let’s get one thing out there – women are more likely to experience incontinence than men. It also runs in families and if you experience frequent bladder or urethra infections, you may also be at a greater risk.
The causes vary slightly depending on which type of incontinence you have but include:
“If you have excess fat, this increases the pressure in your abdomen and, consequently, puts additional strain on your bladder,” says Dr Lakhani. “This can lead to leakage.”
“There may be a slightly higher risk of incontinence is you deliver vaginally,” Dr Lakhani says. “However, I see women who have had a caesarean section, who are affected, too.
“Ultimately, just being pregnant increases the pressure on your abdomen and pelvic floor.”
Damage to the bladder
“This could occur during surgery taking place in the area,” Dr Lakhani says.
“These include diuretics and some antidepressants,” Dr Lakhani says.
Weak pelvic floor muscles
“As you get older, the tissue that supports the bladder neck gets thinner; a strong pelvic floor, however, helps to counteract that,” Dr Lakhani says.
HOW TO TREAT – AND PREVENT – SYMPTOMS OF INCONTINENCE
The good news is that incontinence can be treated. A lifetime of panty liners this condition ain’t. (And that really is good news, with reports that a woman can spend around £1,000 on incontinence products every year).
Here’s how to stop incontinence from catching you unawares.
1. Address your liquid consumption
“Avoid drinking too much fluid last thing at night and, instead, aim to spread your drinks evenly throughout the day,” says Dr Lakhani.
“Don’t reduce the amount you drink – you could end up dehydrated – but don’t drink in excess, either. Aim for the 1.6 litres RDA.” But, when it comes to alcohol and caffeine? “It’s best to cut back,” Dr Lakhani says.
2. Train up your pelvic floor
When was the last time you exercised yours? (And when you read this sentence doesn’t count).
When it comes to working the pelvic floor, Dr Lakhani thinks it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. “Very few women do pelvic floor exercises consistently,” she says. “But you can prevent – and even reverse – incontinence by doing them. It’s never too late to start.”
They don’t even have to take up a lot of your time – Dr Lakhani recommends the following pelvic floor training plan:
Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for five seconds, then relax for five seconds. Do 10 repetitions, three times a day.
Not quite sure you’re doing it right? You can also get devices to help. Certain physiotherapists can also advise on exercises if you get really stuck.
3. Switch to a lower impact activity
If leakage is a concern, chances are working up a sweat is the last thing on your mind. But, especially those with a few extra lbs to lose, staying active is essential.
Opt for lower intensity activities such as swimming, which create a smaller build-up of pressure within the abdomen, reducing the likelihood of your bladder feeling the squeeze. Dr Lakhani also recommends certain (read less bouncy) types of yoga.
And remember, this switch need only be temporary – once your pelvic floor is more solid, you should be able to up the tempo.
4. Try medication
These include antimuscarinics and mirabegron, and they can help the bladder to store urine and prevent sudden urges for the toilet. They do, however, have side effects so discuss your options carefully with your GP.
5. Consider a non-invasive treatment
Although surgery is offered by the NHS, Dr Lakhani recommends non-invasive alternatives to manage your incontinence. She offers two cutting edge treatments – which both boast a 85-90% success rate.
Ultra Femme 360 “is an eight-minute radio frequency treatment that stimulates the production of collagen to thicken the supportive tissue of the anterior vaginal wall,” says Dr Lakhani.
Watch a patient testimonial about the Ultra Femme 360.
The O Shot is a “platelet-rich plasma injections into the anterior vaginal wall and clitoris help to regenerate the supportive tissue. Results can be noted after one treatment and can last for more than a year.”
Read more about the What is the O Shot and How can it Help?
The most important takeaway, however you decide to tackle incontinence, is to open up. You are not alone and should not feel embarrassed or isolated by your symptoms. Incontinence can be treated so suffer in silence, no more.