Incontinence Care: What You Need to Know

TEAM KNIX / YOUR BODY

If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, it can be overwhelming. You may experience embarrassment, a sense of panic or fear and even find yourself more inclined to withdraw from social activities. If you’re a caregiver of somebody who suffers from urinary incontinence, you may also struggle with the stress.

It’s important to understand that you’re not alone in your experience of incontinence. In fact, the statistics are quite eye-opening… Of the 25 million adult Americans suffering from some form of urinary incontinence, 75-80% of those are women. (source)

Yet many women believe that this is a natural part of aging and something they’re just going to have to cope with alone. The truth is that incontinence can affect women (and men) of any age and for many different reasons. The greater truth is that there are many options for incontinence care. But they all start with understanding what’s happening when you suffer from urine leakage.

Wait… There Are Different Types of Urinary Incontinence?

All incontinence manifests the same way; involuntary urine leakage. But it would be a mistake to think that “incontinence” is a complete description of what’s happening in your body. In fact, there are different types of incontinence and they all have different:

  • Causes
  • Treatments
  • And even subtle differences in *how* they manifest

While most of us simply focus on the fact we’re leaking urine, with a little careful observation, or - better yet - help from your doctor, you’ll begin to understand that there are indeed different kinds of incontinence. Let’s break them down…


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Type of Incontinence

How / When it Manifests

Some Possible Causes

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is urine loss during physical exertion, whether it be exercise or more physical reactions like coughing, sneezing, laughing etc.

  • Childbirth
  • Trauma from surgery (e.g. hysterectomy)
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles 
  • Menopause

Urge Incontinence

An impossible-to-ignore urge to urinate, even if you just went or felt fine just minutes before.

  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Overactive bladder (OAB)
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Trauma to the bladder and urethra from surgery
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles 

Mixed Incontinence

A combination of stress and urge incontinence.

  • The same causes as stress and urge incontinence

Overflow Incontinence

If the flow of urine “dribbles” or is unsteady, you may have overflow incontinence. The inability to completely empty your bladder can lead it to overflow and cause unexpected urine leaks.

  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Underactive bladder
  • Blockages in the urinary tract

Functional Incontinence

This is when you experience urine loss, but the cause is not associated with any problems with the urinary system.

  • Neurological or psychological problems or conditions
  • Physical impairments like spinal cord injuries

Treatment Options for the Different Types of Incontinence

And why, you may ask, is it important to know what kind of incontinence you’re experiencing? Well, because they each have different options for care. Your healthcare provider will be the best person to give you a comprehensive rundown of the treatment options for the kind of incontinence you are diagnosed with, but at a high level, they include:

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Type of Incontinence

Treatment May Include...

Stress Incontinence

  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
  • Surgery

Mixed Incontinence

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medication
  • Bladder botox injections

Urge Incontinence

  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
  • Surgery

Overflow Incontinence

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Surgery to remove blockages
  • Use of catheter

Functional Incontinence

  • Nursing assistance
  • Changing physical settings
  • Medications and therapies to address underlying medical condition

Of the surgical options, the sling procedure is the most  common surgical procedure performed in women with stress urinary incontinence. This procedure entails the surgeon using the person's own tissue, synthetic material, or donor tissue to create a ‘sling’ or hammock that supports the urethra. 

Surgery often offers a more long term solution to involuntary urine leaks. However, as with any surgery, there are risks to explore and you might want to try  exploring other options before you undergo surgery.

Incontinence Care Options Anybody Can Safely Try

1. Reduce Your Risk Factors

Urinary incontinence affects a great number of women, at every age, life stage and with all kinds of medical history. A lot of the risk factors (e.g. past pregnancy and childbirth trauma, or surgical history) are not things you can impact.

However, some of the risk factors can be addressed with lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Quitting smoking

If you plan on making changes to either of these things, know that there are no guarantees that incontinence will disappear as a result. However, your overall health will likely benefit if you can maintain these changes long term. 

If you plan on making a major lifestyle change, such as weight loss or giving up cigarettes, we recommend chatting with your doctor about realistic goals and expectations and making sure your approach is healthy.

2. Adjust Your Diet and Beverage Intake

Regardless of weight, you can also adjust what you eat and when you eat it. The following foods and beverages can irritate the bladder, causing involuntary urine leakage. If you notice patterns in your food and drink consumption that correspond with leaks, avoiding those foods will help avoid leaks.

Foods to avoid include:

  • Sweeteners, including corn syrup, honey and artificial sweeteners
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic foods, like citrus fruits and tomatoes

Beverages to avoid include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages

If you’re not ready to abstain completely from these ingredients, be more mindful when and where you consume them, especially closer to bedtime.

3. Try Pelvic Floor Muscle Training to Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Kegel or pelvic floor exercises can be done any time, either sitting or lying down.You can even do them when you are eating, sitting at your desk, or when you are resting.

If you’re unsure how to do Kegel exercises, your doctor, physical therapist or physiotherapist can help you. But basically it’s like pretending you have to urinate and then holding it. You relax and tighten the muscles that control urine flow. 

One way to learn the muscles you should activate is to pay attention when you pee: 

  • Start to pee and then stop. 
  • You should feel the muscles in your vagina (for women), bladder, and anus get tight and move up. These are the pelvic floor muscles. 
  • If you feel them tighten, you have done the pelvic floor muscle training right. Your thighs, buttock muscles, and abdomen should remain relaxed.

4. Take Preventative Measures Against Urinary Tract Infections

Incontinence is one symptom of urinary tract infection (UTI). Another symptom is a stinging or burning sensation when you pee and a decreased or irregular flow of urine. If you experience this, you should visit your doctor. UTIs are treated with antibiotics for 3 to 7 days. 

Ways to prevent UTIs include:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Urinate before and after having sex
  • Wipe from front to back after you pee
  • Wear breathable, natural underwear and clothing, changing your underwear daily

5. Eat Plenty of Fibre to Avoid Constipation

Straining on the toilet can weaken (or further weaken) your pelvic floor muscles. So it’s best to make sure your diet is rich in fibre to avoid constipation. Exercise (even the gentlest of walks done regularly) can also help prevent constipation.

If you find yourself straining to empty your bowels, it may also be the way you’re sitting or the muscles you’re using. Speciality physiotherapists can help with this. 

6. Try Bladder Training and/or Double Voiding

Bladder training involves taking bathroom breaks at regularly timed intervals. By ensuring your bladder is emptied frequently, you minimize the chances of leakages. Over time, the duration of time between breaks can be increased. 

You can also try double voiding: Before bedtime, go to the bathroom and then wait 10 minutes (perhaps brush your teeth etc. in the interim) and then pee again. Using the bathroom several times before bed will help ensure your bladder is empty.

7. Incontinence Care for Older Adults or Those With Functional Incontinence

A regular schedule can help older people, or those with Alzheimer’s who might experience incontinence. It’s worth noting that for older adults, urinary incontinence can also contribute to falls and fractures. So, following a schedule will not only help minimize the mess caregivers might have to cope with but mitigate risk of further injury.

Waterproof bedding and clothing that’s easy to change and launder will also make managing functional incontinence a little easier for caregivers.

Bonus Tip: Leakproof Underwear Offers Immediate Confidence

No matter what the changes or treatments you explore, they will likely take a while to show any effect. So, while you wait, you can also explore products to help you stay active and social. Leakproof underwear comes with different absorbency levels. 

Super absorbent Knix Leakproof Underwear can hold up to 8 tsp of liquid (whether that’s sweat, blood or urine). Products like these can be a game changer for those experiencing female urinary incontinence, allowing them to remain active and social while exploring treatment options.

Incontinence is not an easy thing to experience, but there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can make it easier to live with incontinence. 

It’s Still Important to Talk to Your Doctor

While it’s great that there are options and lifestyle products that can help you both manage and address incontinence, it’s still important to chat with your healthcare provider.

You may be finding yourself feeling you check the boxes for more than one kind of incontinence. Or you may notice that the treatment options for different kinds sometimes include the same treatments. This is true.

Incontinence is not a clean and clear experience and a lot depends on your personal medical history, experiences of childbirth and pregnancy, and more… It can also be a symptom of larger problems, which your doctor will want to rule out.

It is also possible to experience two forms of incontinence at once. Indeed, the second most common form of incontinence is Mixed Incontinence, which is a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

These kinds of complicating factors are added reasons to seek medical advice. Your doctor has both the experience and the objectivity to help you better understand your experience. Plus, they can run various tests and offer wider treatment options.