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GET ACTIVE

Encourage others to start talking and gain control of their bladder health!  We've made it simple for you to share National Bladder Health Week news, resources, tips and tools with your friends, family and healthcare providers.  We have a variety of  simple activities you can choose from to promote awareness of bladder health.  They are cut and paste one of the sample newsletter or emails below.

1415 Stuart Engals Blvd
Mt Pleasant, SC, 29464
United States

843 419-5307

NAFC is a non-profit offering resources for people struggling with incontinence, adult bedwetting, OAB, SUI, nocturia, neurogenic bladder, and pelvic floor disorders like prolapse. 

INCONTINENCE STORIES FROM EXPERTS AND REAL PEOPLE | BHEALTH

Check out the BHealth blog to hear expert advice, real stories from people suffering from incontinence issues, tips on managing adult bedwetting, how to care for a loved one, and how to maintain a healthy pelvic floor.

 

ASK THE EXPERT: Do I Really Need To Avoid Sugar And Alcohol If I Have Incontinence?

Sarah Jenkins

Ask The Expert Sugar and Alcohol

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: It’s the holidays, and it’s hard to avoid all the goodies and treats around me.  Do things like sugar and alcohol really make a difference in my incontinence symptoms?

Answer: While it may not be what you want to hear, the answer is yes.  Let’s start with sugar.  Sugar (even the artificial kind) is a known bladder irritant – especially for those with overactive bladder – and too much of it can keep you running to the bathroom more times than you’d want during the holidays. Not only that, consuming too much sugar causes the kidneys to work harder to flush the sugar out of the blood, which can result in an increase in the amount of urine you’re holding onto – not a good thing if you already have a leakage problem. High blood sugar levels have also been shown to increase the risk of urinary tract infections.

And now alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic. It increases urine production which can lead to increased the frequency and urgency of needing to use the restroom. In addition, alcoholic beverages can stimulate the bladder, which can also lead to incontinence.

In short – both sugar and alcohol should be avoided as much as possible for those with incontinence or overactive bladder. If you do plan to indulge this holiday season, remember that moderation is key. 

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

How Seniors Can Age-In-Place Comfortably And Safely

Sarah Jenkins

How Seniors Can Age-In-Place Comfortably And Safely

How Seniors Can Age-In-Place Comfortably And Safely

Many seniors can continue to live vital and active lives well after retirement, but safety is always a concern when a senior is living alone. As our bodies age, the risk of falls, broken bones, and other injuries increases, and for some, staying in the home may not be feasible. This is especially true when the home contains stairs, clutter, or walkways that aren’t accessible to wheelchairs or walkers. That’s why it’s imperative for seniors to assess their home to see what dangers might be lurking, to repair or replace any broken appliances, and take a good look at what their needs will be in the coming years.

Here are some of the best tips for senior safety while aging-in-place.

Update

If you have lived in the same home for many years, it’s possible that several updates need to be made in the kitchen and bathroom areas. Take a look at appliances and fixtures such as the stove, refrigerator, and bathtub and consider replacing worn-out technology with newer models. Many appliances now come with “smart” features--such as alarms and automatic shutoff--that would be extremely helpful for a senior. As for the bathroom, add non-slip rubber mats to the floor and tub, as well as a safety bar and shower seat.

Assess

Take a look at your home through the eyes of an older version of yourself. Will you be able to climb the stairs easily, or navigate through walkways? Remove any clutter, old rugs with turned-up corners or slippery backs, and furniture that could provide a trip hazard. Add lighting to stairwells and main living areas to ensure visibility; nightlights are a wonderful tool to have in every room. It’s also a good idea to make sure bedrooms and bathrooms will be accessible from a wheelchair and that doorways are wide enough, especially in older homes.

Security and home safety

For peace of mind, it’s always nice to have door alarms or motion sensors on the property, but they can also be helpful in reminding you to lock up. Consider investing in an alarm service and having motion sensor lights installed around the perimeter, which will aid your vision at night.

It’s also a good idea to make sure there are up-to-date fire extinguishers in the kitchen and in any living space where there might be candles or smoking. Install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in living spaces.

Consider getting a pet

Dogs and cats can be wonderful companions, and for seniors, they can also be service animals. These animals do much more than provide loyal company; they also help lower stress levels and can be extremely helpful for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Aging-in-place may seem like a big undertaking, but if you take it one step at a time and plan well, you might be able to stay in your own home for the rest of your days.

About the Author:  Caroline James is the co-founder of Elder Action, which aims to provide useful information to aging seniors.

Please Give To NAFC This Holiday Season

Sarah Jenkins

Dear Readers,

We’ve often quoted that incontinence affects over 37 million Americans.  And while this number may not mean all that much to you on it’s own, consider this:

Incontinence is more prevalent than diabetes and asthma combined. And while it may not be life-threatening, it certainly has a sever impact on those that it touches. The rate of incontinence isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon – with our ever-increasing population, and the aging baby-boomers, it is more important than ever to ensure Americans have the resources they need to help deal with conditions like incontinence.

NAFC typically does not receive all that many donations from patients. Though we touch over 1,000,000 on this website, few give to us. However, if today, everyone who visited our site donated just $5, we would reach our goal of raising $15,000 this season.

We know there are many causes that are worthy of your donations. But, this giving season we hope that you will consider donating to NAFC. Your support is vital to ensuring that our organization is able to continue helping those who struggle with incontinence. And, as a thank you for your gift, you'll receive a free eBook that serves as a step-by-step guide to managing your incontinence. 

Thank you for your support,  

Steven G. Gregg, Ph.D,  Executive Director, NAFC

 

 

 

 

Why Incontinence Is A Condition We Need To Worry About

Sarah Jenkins

Why Incontinence Is A Condition We Need To Worry About

Incontinence is a condition largely overlooked and under treated in the United States.  Although nearly 37 million people every year are affected by incontinence (which ranges from bladder to bowel leakage issues), unfortunately only a fraction of them ever seek help.  Issues like stigma and embarrassment keep many from reaching out.  Others seek help but may only try one or two treatment options before giving up. And there is another group of patients that talk to their doctor but, sadly, don’t end up getting the proper care due to either lack of physician knowledge of incontinence treatment options or, sadly, an unwillingness to refer to “their” urological specialist.

Yet, despite the unwillingness to talk about it, or treat it, incontinence is something that we should absolutely be worried about for the future.

It is estimated that as of 2050, nearly 60 million women will have at least one pelvic floor disorder. 41.3 million will experience urinary incontinence, and 9.2 million will have pelvic organ prolapse. Those are big numbers. Add men to the totals and they become staggering.

Of course, with increased prevalence come increased costs.  Estimates as recent as 2014 project the total economic national costs of patients over 25 that have overactive bladder along with urgency urinary incontinence to rise from $65.9 billion to nearly $82.6 billion by 2020.

Add all of this to the decreasing rates of urologists in America and we have a real problem on our hands.  A report from the American Urological Association predicts that by 2025, the number of urologists in the US will drop by nearly 30%.

Increased prevalence, increased cost, and a decrease in the help needed to treat the condition. This is what we are facing.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. We can make a difference now by making incontinence a more understood condition. By being brave and speaking up about it to our doctors and demanding treatment from them. By sharing our stories with close friends and relatives in efforts to reduce the stigma (“Yes, you are not the only one – I suffer from it too!”). This is how we fight. This is how we increase the options available to us. This is how we reduce the prevalence.

Don’t let inactivity determine your fate. There’s no better time than Bladder Health Awareness Month to speak up about your condition. Do it today.

Ask The Expert: Can Pelvic Floor Exercises Really Help My OAB Symptoms?

Sarah Jenkins

Ask The Expert

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: Can pelvic floor exercises really help with OAB symptoms?

Answer: Yes! The pelvic floor is a web of muscles that cradle the bladder, uterus and rectum.  By keeping your pelvic floor strong and healthy, you can ensure that your muscles are strong enough to prevent leaks when those urgent needs strike. Kegel exercises are great for this. To perform a kegel, first you need to find the right muscles – a good way to do this is to try stopping urination in midstream.  These are the exact muscles you should be working. (Note – do not do this on a regular basis, only to identify the correct muscle group.)  To perform a kegel, tighten your pelvic floor muscles while drawing in your Transverse Abdominal muscles (TA). Your TA muscles are your lower, inner most muscles of the abdominal wall and you can pull them in by bringing your belly button back to your spine. Hold this contraction for 5 seconds, then let your pelvic floor completely relax. (Allowing your pelvic floor to relax is just as important in this exercise to ensure that it doesn’t become too tight, which can also cause issues.)  Complete 10 sets of these, 2 times per day.

An important note:  While kegels are beneficial to many women who have pelvic floor muscles that are too loose, it is important to note that there are some women who have pelvic floor muscles that are too tight.  In these cases, the pelvic floor is already so tense that they are not able to contract or relax at a normal rate, making them weak.   Kegels are not recommended in women with tightened pelvic floors.  If you are experiencing any type of pelvic floor issue, incontinence, painful intercourse, back pain or constipation, you should consult a specialized pelvic floor physical therapist prior to beginning any pelvic floor exercise.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

Adult Bedwetting: Stories And Tips From Real People

Sarah Jenkins

Adult Bedwetting Stories and Tips

Adult bedwetting. It’s a rarely talked about condition, but is one that affects many people.  In fact, NAFC receives more visits to the adult bedwetting pages than any other page on our site.  People struggle with this condition for all sorts of reasons – spinal cord injuries, neurological diseases, and even stress can cause bedwetting.  And sometimes there can be seemingly no cause at all, which makes it all the more frustrating to address. Most people who wet the bed are desperate for a solution.  They find it deeply embarrassing, and it greatly affects their quality of life, as they are constantly dealing with keeping things clean and worried about how it will affect current or future relationships.


The good news is there are ways to manage it.  We asked people who live with adult bedwetting to share their best tips and stories with us. And now, we’re sharing them with you.  If you’re longing to wake up dry in the morning, keep reading!

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor! 

“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. I have been wearing continence products for over a decade now – disposable underwear during the day, and fitted briefs at night. I’ve never had a Dr., RN, or Tech gasp in terror that one of their patients is wearing an incontinence garment, I’ve never had them ask to change me, mock me, or announce my issues to a crowded room.  Doctors are professionals, and they see incontinent people all the time. If you are having incontinence issues, you definitely need to see a Doctor, but don’t be nervous about it. If incontinence was that uncommon, they wouldn’t have aisles dedicated to it in every big box store across the US.”

If your doctor isn’t addressing your needs, find a new one!

“My first Urologist really wanted to focus on medication. I was all for that if it would make my problem go away, but it didn't and it had undesirable side effects. When the medication didn't work the Urologist referred me to a physical therapist and a psychologist, convinced my continence issues were the result of depression. They weren't, and that was when I opted to go with another Urologist. Not every Cop that pulls you over is going to give you a ticket, and not every Doctor is going to focus on what works for you. My second Doctor was focused on how it affected me and how to manage it, and it proved to be a more fruitful relationship. I also think RNs are great to talk to. The Dr. is supposed to be the expert, but in my experience Nurses tend to focus on reality and moving forward. Doctors tend to only focus on cures, even if that isn't a realistic goal.”

Don’t be afraid of adult absorbent products and find one that fits correctly!

“I initially went to what I now see as comical lengths to avoid dealing with my continence issues. I first tried the male guards, which are not designed for nighttime incontinence. When those proved futile I tried buying Goodnites (not designed for a grown man and very ill-fitting), figuring if the store clerk saw me buying bedwetting products designed for juveniles, she would assume that they were for a younger sibling. In retrospect, the clerk at a pharmacy or a grocery store is indifferent to what you buy. I think that is a big thing people initially get hung up on, and they needn’t. I typically buy continence supplies online these days, but no one cares what you are buying as long as you have the cash to pay for it. What is important is buying an incontinence product that works for you and you will use. At night I wear a fitted brief, which is an adult diaper. Initially it was very upsetting, but it gets better with time. Wearing a diaper keeps me dry, my bed dry, my girlfriend dry, and I get a good night’s sleep.  It took me a while to get over the hump of accepting that this was what I had to wear to bed, but eventually I got over it. Now it is just a thing I do at night, no different than brushing my teeth and flossing.”

“The best thing to do is accept that you have the condition and take steps to manage it. Look into products like mattress protectors, bed pads or even diapers. I'm 29 and know how frustrating it is. But I've accepted that diapers are my best option for me. Trust me, taking off a wet diaper in the morning is WAY better than having to change and launder sheets and clothes.” 

Don’t be scared to open up about your condition with your loved ones.

“Everyone is different, but I think that if you are in a relationship with someone and you have an illness or injury, that isn’t going to change things. I was straightforward with my girlfriend and we moved on together. We are still intimate. We still sleep together. We just keep my nighttime attire exclusive of our love life. “

Your attitude can make a huge difference!

“I used to "suffer" with bed wetting but once I became resigned to it, protected myself from its effects with good thick diapers, and changed my attitude about it, the suffering left. For many of us and maybe even you this is simply a condition in life to deal with. Let the suffering go and just accept it as a reality for yourself. You will be much happier and content.”

“I developed continence problems as the result of an unexpected side effect of surgery when I was 14 years old. I'm 74 now. So I've been dealing with these issues for 60 years. I've never been reliably dry at night since then. I was in diapers 24/7 for a couple of years after the surgery, but I managed to develop enough daytime control to go without a diaper except at night by the time I went to university. However, my incontinence increased again when I was in my forties; and I've been in diapers 24/7 since then. Incontinence is just a part of my life, and diapers are the kind of underpants that I wear. I do not "suffer"! I just manage my incontinence as a nuisance that isn't much worse than needing to wear glasses or going bald and not nearly as bad as my arthritis.”

“If your bedwetting is treatable, see the necessary doctors and get it treated. However, if it's chronic and not going to go away, acceptance and management with good diapers are the keys. "Suffering" is optional. I recommend just getting on with your life. Incontinence in general and bedwetting in particular are nuisances that need not ruin your life unless you let them. So don't let them do so.”

Find a support group!

“One of the best things that happened to me happened as a result of the NAFC forum. There was an incontinence panel put together, where individuals were part of a focus group and discussed how incontinence affected their life. I appreciate forums like this because you can discuss issues with other people facing them, but in the real world I always keep my private life private. That focus group meant a lot to me because I had a chance to talk with other people (even just on the phone) that had the same problem and the same concerns. I realized then that everyone worries about people noticing. Everyone worries about odor and stigma. And everyone (at least in the group) wears some sort of protection. That was actually a big weight of my chest being able to talk to people about it that were outside my extended family and the medical field, and if the opportunity presents itself again I highly encourage people to participate. The first 10 minutes are a little awkward, but after that people open up and you realize you aren't alone.” 

Need more support with bedwetting?  Check out our new Dry Night Solution Kit, which offers education and custom products designed to fit your specific needs. 

 

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

Sarah Jenkins

A Guest Blog By Sally Connor

I am a 38-year old woman, and I am angry. Angry that my body has changed so much since I’ve had children, angry that I developed a prolapsed bladder after the birth of my first son, angry that I can no longer run the way I used to without making several trips to the bathroom, or worse, wetting myself. I am angry with my doctors for not telling me that this may be a side effect of pregnancy and that there were steps I could have taken to prevent it. I’m angry with other women for not telling me that it has happened to them. I am angry for my sheer ignorance of the situation until it happened to me. But more than anything, I am angry that no one knows any of this because in our society, it feels too embarrassing to really talk about.

When we are young, we don’t think about these things. Before I had children, I don’t think that I ever even gave the pelvic floor much thought. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know what it was.  Here is what I didn’t know:  That the pelvic floor muscles act as a basket, supporting your bladder, uterus, and rectum. It is also connected to and supported by your deepest core muscles – your transverse abdominus (below the ‘six pack’ abs) and your multifidus (the tiny muscles that support the spine), and is affected by almost every movement you make.  The pelvic floor, what I now refer to as the epicenter of my body, is called upon every time you sit, stand, squat, walk, and even breathe. So I ask, why is it that we don’t hear more about this vital web of muscles? Why are we kept in the dark until it is too late? Because, really, much of this can usually be prevented. The pelvic floor, just like any other muscle in the body, can be strengthened and trained. With regular exercise, the pelvic floor and the supporting muscles around it can provide a strong foundation for continence for your entire life. But, like any other muscle, if it is already in a weakened state, and then becomes traumatized by something like childbirth, well, the damage is done. That is the case with prolapse. You can try to repair it, and may see marked improvement through physical therapy, or even surgery, but once the damage is done, it is done. 

It doesn’t mean that there is no hope though. I know this. I have seen great improvement in my symptoms and am grateful to have had access to a very skilled physical therapist who was able to show me how to strengthen things up ‘down there’. But, I still do experience some symptoms and I can’t help wonder if things would be the same had I been more aware of this muscle and what I should have been doing to keep it strong prior to and during pregnancy. 

With over 25 million Americans experiencing incontinence, I am baffled that the issue is not publically talked about more often. It is estimated that about 40% of women will experience prolapse at some point in their life. When will we decide that these conditions deserve attention? Talking about them would encourage more people to get help, and, maybe even more importantly, take steps to prevent it. Instead, the silence only encourages the shame, embarrassment, and isolation that many people with incontinence experience.  It does nothing to help those who are experiencing the issue to know there are ways to treat it.  Nor does it educate those who have not experienced it to know that this is something that should be considered. Until we can all be more open and recognize that this is a problem worth talking about (shouting about!), we will be a society that continues to allow it’s people to ‘quietly manage their symptoms’ instead of really preventing or treating them. 

So please, speak up about your incontinence, your prolapse, or any other pelvic floor issue you may have. While it may be common, it’s not normal, and is nothing that anyone should have to suffer with in silence.

About the author:  Sally Connor is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, and homemaker who suffered a prolapse after giving birth to her son. She has refused to let this symptom rule her life and strives to increase awareness of pelvic floor issues and what women can do about them by simply talking more about the issue.  She hopes that one day pelvic floor issues and incontinence will be a less taboo subject.

How To Prepare For Your OAB Doctor Appointment

Sarah Jenkins

OAB

NAFC encourages you to make an appointment so you can get on a path to treatment.

These 6 steps will help you prepare for your visit:

  1. Fill out the Overactive Bladder Awareness Tool and NAFC’s bladder diary to take with you to your appointment. Download the Overactive Bladder - Validated 8-question Awareness Tool PDF, answer the questions, and give it to your doctor at the first appointment. Additionally, you can download and fill out NAFC's bladder diary for about 2 days before your appointment in order to record your symptoms.

  2. Make a list of all of your doctors and medical conditions.Take a list of all your doctors, medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, sleep disorders, heart conditions, etc.) to your appointment.

  3. Complete a list of any operations or medical procedures you have had in your lifetime. Women should list their number of pregnancies, number of deliveries, weight of their babies, and whether they were delivered vaginally or by Caesarean section.

  4. Provide the doctor with all your medications. Include all prescription medicines you are taking that have been prescribed or refilled during the last 30 days. Also include all the prescriptions that you keep in the house but that you don't take regularly. As well as, all the over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.

  5. Be prepared to describe how incontinence affects your daily life. Make a list of the most bothersome aspects related to your incontinence.

  6. Be prepared for your appointment. On the day of your appointment, expect to be asked for a urine specimen. Talk with the doctor's receptionist when you make the appointment and when you arrive to see if there are tests, or preparations for tests, that you should know about (eg. fasting after midnight).

The Top 3 Reasons To Use A Bowel Diary When You Have Fecal Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

bowel diary

It sounds weird, doesn’t it?  Keeping a journal for your bowel or bladder?  Maybe, but a Bowel Diary is actually a very useful tool to use if you suffer from Fecal Incontinence or Accidental Bowel Leakage.  

  1. A Bowel Diary Gives You A Good Snapshot Of What’s Happening With Your Body. Knowing how often you leak, when, and how much can give help you create voiding habits that work with your body, and better assess the types of products that you need to address your leakage.  Always have a problem at 10 in the morning?  Perhaps you need to plan to always use the restroom at that time.  Only experience mild leakage? A light absorbent pad may work just fine for your needs.  Keeping a diary will help you make these decisions.

  2. It Helps You To Identify Triggers That May Be Causing You To Have Fecal Incontinence. By keeping a record of your ABL, you can start to uncover trends that may be contributing to the issue.  For instance, that cup of coffee first thing in the morning may be irritating your bowels more than you thought before, hinting that it’s time to rethink your java habit.

  3. It Provides You With A Roadmap For A Discussion With Your Doctor. Recording your leaks and daily habits gives you a great reference for when you eventually have a discussion about ABL with your doctor. This can be an embarrassing conversation for many, so having a document that outlines everything you’ve been experiencing can really help the discussion along, and provide your doctor with information that can help him or her prepare a better treatment plan for you.

Download the NAFC Bowel Diary here!

 

NAFC's Response to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, "With Overactive Bladder, Drug Firms Helped Create A $3 Billion Market"

Sarah Jenkins

NAFC Logo Milwaukee Journal Sentinel OAB Article

Recently, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article titled "With overactive bladder, drug companies helped create a $3 billion market."  In the article, the authors insinuate that OAB, as a condition, is mostly made up by drug companies to create a market need.  As an organization that has helped countless people find treatment as they struggle with Overactive Bladder, and has seen first hand the debilitating effects that OAB has had on so many lives, NAFC vehemently objects to this article. Below is our response, sent as an open letter to the editor, from NAFC's Executive Director, Steve Gregg, Ph.D.

 "To Whom it May Concern:

We recently read your article in the October 16th, 2016 Sunday edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel entitled “With overactive bladder, drug companies helped create a $3 billion market”.  As a patient advocacy organization we take exception to the article.  We can categorically state that OAB is a condition that does in fact affect millions of patients in the US. 

OAB is a term created to help patients understand the condition of urge urinary incontinence (UUI).  UUI is not just about the need to go to the bathroom but is most often association with an increase in urinary frequency and accidents.  This condition has been shown to increase feeling of isolation, depression and a general loss in quality of life.  And based on the number of individuals contacting NAFC each day we know this is a real condition with real consequences.

Our organization is dedicated to helping individuals and their families facing the challenges of incontinence overcoming the stigma associated with bladder and bowel conditions.  Your article reinforces the misguided idea that bladder conditions such as OAB are simply the effect of aging, or childbearing and poor toileting habits or worse just a made up condition to allow pharma companies to generate revenue.  Currently, women wait on average 7 years from the onset of symptoms to seeking medical treatment.  The reasons for this lengthy wait time are well documented, but embarrassment and lack of awareness of treatment options are sited most frequently. 

We implore you to consider patients and their need for access to medical care and effective treatment options when writing about conditions that are hard to treat, especially when patients feel embarrassed to discuss their conditions with healthcare providers.  It may help you to talk to actual patients about their frustrations and what it is like to live with a condition that is often dismissed.  At NAFC we feel strongly that these patients need our support and assistance to find the care they need and the treatment options they deserve. 

We are disappointed in tone and tenor of your article regarding patients and their need to find medically appropriate treatment options for OAB.  We hope that you will address this obvious misrepresentation in the near future.

Respectively, 

Steven G. Gregg, Ph.D.

Executive Director

The National Association For Continence"

How do you feel about the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's article? Share your thoughts in the comments below.  And, if you object to the article, please share our response on Facebook.

 

 

The Growing Array Of Options For Managing Fecal Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

Fecal Incontinence Treatment Options

It wasn’t long ago that those suffering with fecal incontinence had just a handful of options. They could try behavioral modifications (still largely used today), absorbent products to help manage the condition, bowel retraining, medications, or surgery. But in the last several years, companies have been coming out with more and more innovative products to manage ABL.  We’ve rounded up some of the newest products and therapies to help you control ABL.

Fenix® Implant: The Fenix® Implant, is a small, flexible band of connected metal beads with magnetic cores that is placed around the anal canal to treat accidental bowel leakage (ABL). The beads will separate temporarily to allow the controlled passage of stool. The magnetic force between the beads then brings the implant back to the closed position to prevent unexpected opening of the anal canal that may lead to ABL.

Renew® Insert: The Renew® Insert is a new product designed to comfortably fit with your body to form a seal with the rectum, which blocks the anal passage and prevents leaks from occurring.  

Eclipse™:  Eclipse™, which is fitted first by a physician, is an inflatable balloon device that is inserted into the vagina. When inflated, the balloon puts pressure through the vaginal wall onto the rectal area, thereby reducing the number of FI episodes.

SECCA: The SECCA procedure is an outpatient procedure that can be performed in your doctor’s office. It is best used when other more conservative therapies have failed. The non-surgical procedure works by delivering radiofrequency energy to the tissues of the anal canal, causing the tissues to shrink and tighten.  SECCA takes about 45 minutes to perform and patients are able to return home 1-2 hours after the procedure. Most patients begin to see an improvement in 4 to 6 weeks.

InterStim™ System:  Sacral Neuromodulation, delivered through the InterStim™ System, works by targeting the communication problem between the brain and the sacral nerves, which control the muscles related to bowel function.  This Bowel Control Therapy targets the symptoms of bowel incontinence by modulating the sacral nerves with mild electrical pulses. Sacral Neuromodulation typically only takes about 20 minutes in a doctor’s office.

Talk with your doctor to see if one of these products may work for you.  If you need help finding a physician, check out the NAFC Specialist Locator.

Ask The Expert: What Should Be The First Line Of Defense In The Treatment For Fecal Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

Ask An Expert

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Q:  What should be the first line of defense in the treatment for Fecal Incontinence?

A:  My advice would always be to first talk with your doctor.  This may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but it’s one worth having, since your doctor is best equipped to diagnose and treat the condition.  However, if you’re just not ready to take that step yet, there are a few things you can do:

1.     Keep a bowel diary.  It may seem strange to track your bowel movements, but by tracking the time of your movements, what you were doing at the time, and what you eat during the day, you may be able to uncover some clues as to what is causing you to have frequent movements or accidents.

2.     Change up your diet.  Certain foods can be irritating to your bowel and by keeping a healthy diet you may be able to lessen some of your symptoms.  Try eating foods rich in fiber, which can help create bulkier stools and make them easier to control. Drink plenty of water to avoid constipation (which, contrary to what you might think, can also cause ABL since loose stools can push their way past hardened ones causing leakage.)

3.     Develop a routine.  Take a look at your bowel diary and see if you notice a pattern to your bowel movements or accidents.  Try developing a voiding schedule to circumvent these episodes.

4.     Exercise.  Getting in a good workout is always a good idea, but it can be especially helpful in keeping constipation under control. Exercising helps to move food through the large intestine more quickly, which can prevent it from becoming hard and dry (and harder to pass.)  And keeping the pelvic floor in shape with regular exercise and kegel contractions can help control and reduce fecal incontinence.

If you don’t experience any improvement in your condition after making the above adjustments, it may be time to bite the bullet and speak with a doctor. Rest assured you won’t be the first one to share this type of problem with them and they will be able to point you in the direction of something that will work best for you.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

4 Common Myths Of Accidental Bowel Leakage

Sarah Jenkins

DeathtoStock_Medium4.jpg

Accidental Bowel Leakage (ABL) is something no one likes to talk about. Even more so than urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence carries a stigma that is hard to shake. And yet, tens of millions Americans struggle with it on a regular basis. Today, we’re dispelling 4 common myths associated with accidental bowel leakage:

MYTH:  ABL only happens when you have watery or loose stools.

FACT:  While things like diarrhea can create a strong sense of urgency and may indeed lead to leakage, other factors may also be at play.  Being constipated can be a cause of ABL too - when large hard stools get stuck in the rectum, watery stools can leak out around them.  Regular bouts of constipation can also stretch and weaken the rectum, making it harder for you to hold stools long enough to make it to the restroom. To that end, any damage to the muscles or nerves around the anus can create an ABL issue.  Things like childbirth, diabetes, stroke, hemorrhoid surgery, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injury all have the potential to cause ABL.

MYTH:  ABL only happens to older people

FACT:  While age does play a factor with ABL, leaky stools can happen to anyone who has had muscle or nerve damage to the anus, and can occur in people as young as 40.  ABL is more common in our older population though, due to decreased muscle and tissue elasticity, which makes it harder to hold a stool.

MYTH: Diet doesn’t affect ABL

FACT:  Diet can play a huge role in how and if you experience ABL. Everyone’s triggers are different - spicy food, fried and fatty foods, and food and drink with caffeine can cause problems for many. Additionally, eating larger meals can sometimes have a negative effect.  Try using a bowel diary to keep track of your food intake and your bowel problems. This may help you to see a trend in your eating habits that are leading to ABL.

MYTH:  There is nothing I can do to treat ABL

FACT:  ABL can and should be treated.  Watching what you eat, getting proper exercise (including pelvic floor exercises!), making certain behavior modifications, taking medication to address the issue are just a few of the things that can be done to combat ABL.  Surgery to correct the problem may also be an option for you.  The most important thing to remember is that you have options, and you owe it to yourself to seek them out by talking with your doctor.

Learn more about Accidental Bowel Leakage and available treatment options in our Conditions section.

 

UTIs - What Causes Them And How To Avoid Them

Sarah Jenkins

UTIs, or Urinary Tract Infections, will affect most women at some point in their lifetime.  UTI’s are recognized by the burning sensation they cause in the bladder or urethra (the tube that empties urine from the body) during urination, and the intense urge to urinate frequently – even if it is just a little amount.  Some women may also leak urine during a UTI, even if that isn’t something they normally experience.  Urine may also smell differently and appear cloudy or dark.  UTI’s are not pleasant, but there are things you can do to prevent them.

The first thing you need to know is why UTIs happen.  UTIs are caused by the presence of bacteria in the urinary tract, which can then travel up to the bladder.  And, while the urinary tract does have several safe guards, which naturally help it to flush bacteria out, infections can still occur.  Infections are more common in women primarily due to their anatomy.  Bacteria from the bowel can easily sneak into the urethra because it is so close to the anus (This is why we wipe front to back people!), and women have much shorter urethras than men, which means bacteria can more easily get into the bladder.   Certain conditions can make people more prone to UTIs – those who wear catheters may be at an increased risk since it is harder to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. And anyone who has trouble emptying his or her bladder completely can also be at risk.  Sex can also contribute to UTIs since it can introduce new bacteria to the urethral opening.

The good news is that most UTIs don’t last long once treated.  Since the main cause of a UTI is often the presence of bacteria, antibiotics are usually used to treat them, and take roughly 2-3 days to work.  Drinking lots of water and fluids can also quicken your recovery time, because it helps you to flush out the bacteria out of your system. 

Here are some tips to avoid UTIs altogether:

  • Wipe front to back. Keeping the Urethra clean and avoiding contact with bacteria from the anus or bowel can help prevent bacteria from entering the urinary tract in the first place.
  • Drink lots of fluids.  Staying hydrated and drinking lots of water each day will help flush out any bacteria that may be present.
  • Urinate when you need to. Holding urine in the bladder for longer than necessary only increases the chance that bacteria will multiply and cause an infection.
  • Urinate after having sex. This helps get rid of any bacteria that may be lingering from intercourse.

If you do get a UTI, see a doctor right away for treatment. If left untreated, the bacteria can sometimes make its way to the kidneys and cause a more serious infection.

The Best Products For Treating Accidental Bowel Leakage

Sarah Jenkins

accidental bowel leakage products

If you suffer from fecal incontinence, you know that you will do anything to prevent leaks from happening.  Fortunately, there are many products on the market that can do just that.  We’ve rounded up some of the most popular products for accidental bowel leakage to share with you here.   

Supplements. Fiber supplements may be a good first step to try if you are experiencing loose stools, as they bulk up the consistency of your stool and make it less liquid.  Good sources of fiber are found in lots of foods such as split peas, many types of beans, and berries. Fiber supplements can also help, and can be found in many health food stores.  Look for products that contain psyllium or methylcellulose.

Anti-diarrhea Medication. Products like Immodium or Pepto-Bismol can really help people who deal with the occasional loose stools.  However, it’s important to not use products like these for more than a couple of days

Anti-Constipation Medication. While most cases of constipation can be fixed by incorporating a healthier diet and maintaining proper fluid intake (8 cups of water a day is the norm), sometimes you may need a little help to get things moving.  Most of the medications available, such as Amitiza® and Miralax® work by drawing extra water to the stool to make it softer and easier to pass. As with anti-diarrhea medication, these products usually should not be used for extended periods of time.

ABL Specific Absorbent Products. Absorbents for urinary incontinence get a lot of attention, but did you know that there are specific products just for fecal incontinence? Butterfly body liners are designed for light leakage and are unique in that they fit discreetly in between the buttocks.  Other super absorbent products from common names like Tena, Poise and Reassure also work well for bowel leakage.

Skin protection. If you suffer from any type of incontinence, it is important to take care of your skin.  Barrier creams and ointments to protect and treat the skin from rashes or infection can be found online and in local drugstores.

Collection Symptoms. For those with heavier leakage, there are multiple options ranging from bags adhered directly to the skin to catheters and tubes attached to a collection bag.

Vaginal Inserts.  Eclipse™, which is fitted first by a physician, is an inflatable balloon device that is inserted into the vagina. When inflated, the balloon puts pressure through the vaginal wall onto the rectal area, thereby reducing the number of FI episodes.

Rectal Inserts. The Renew® Insert is a new product designed to comfortably fit with your body to form a seal with the rectum, which blocks the anal passage and prevents leaks from occurring.  

Another device on the market, the Fenix® Implant, is a small, flexible band of connected metal beads with magnetic cores that is placed around the anal canal to treat accidental bowel leakage (ABL). The beads will separate temporarily to allow the controlled passage of stool. The magnetic force between the beads then brings the implant back to the closed position to prevent unexpected opening of the anal canal that may lead to ABL.

Have you tried any other products not listed above? Tell us about them in the comments!

 

Eating Your Way Through Constipation

Steve Gregg

Being constipated is a very uncomfortable situation, leaving many people stressed and impatient. For some, constipation further aggravates bladder control issues and for others, the problem is merely uncomfortable. Regardless of how your bladder is affected, the impatience and stress caused by constipation only makes the whole situation worse.

Thankfully, constipation is usually a situation fixed by better eating habits and/or a change in medication. Talk to your doctor about your constipation and consider bringing in a bowel diary of how often you pass a bowel movement.

If medication is the sole catalyst, your doctor should be able to advise a healthy alternative. And if eating a more fibrous diet is in the books for you, consider trying these ten constipation-fighting foods.

      Popcorn
      Nuts
      Beans and Legumes
      Grapes
      Broccoli
      Flax Seeds
      Pineapple Juice
      Bran
      Figs
      Prunes

What foods or drinks do you use to combat constipation?

How To Perform Bowel Retraining To Treat Accidental Bowel Leakage Or Constipation

Sarah Jenkins

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Those who struggle with bowel control issues know full well the impact it can have. From fecal incontinence (also known as accidental bowel leakage), to constipation, not being regular can be be a huge nuisance, and can cause embarrassment, shame and frustration.

One way to manage bowel control is with bowel retraining, which literally means to “teach” your bowel how to function properly again.  By stimulating the bowel at regular intervals, you can train it to empty regularly, and with a normal consistency.

Some tips before you begin:

  1. Keep a Bowel Diary.  Knowing how often and when you empty your bowel now will help you later on as you begin the retraining process.  Keep a bowel diary for at least 4 days to get a good idea of both your voiding schedule, and what you’re eating and drinking.  

  2. Manage Your Diet.  Speaking of eating and drinking, what you consume can have a huge effect on your bowels.  To maintain a good bowel consistency, be sure to consume high fiber foods, like vegetables, beans and whole grain foods.  If you suffer from loose stools, using a bulking agent, such as psyllium, which can be found at health food stores, can help.  And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, which is vital when trying to maintain a healthy bowel.

  3. Be Consistent. Select a time of day that works for you to perform this exercise and stick with it.  This will ensure that you are training your bowel not only to function properly, but at the same time each day as well.

How to perform bowel retraining:

  • Insert a lubricated finger into the anus and make a circular motion until the sphincter relaxes. This may take a few minutes.

  • After you have done the stimulation, sit in a normal posture for a bowel movement. If you are able to walk, sit on the toilet or bedside commode. If you are confined to the bed, use a bedpan. Get into as close to a sitting position as possible, or use a left side lying position if you are unable to sit.

  • Try to get as much privacy as possible. Some people find that reading while sitting on the toilet helps them relax enough to have a bowel movement.

  • If digital stimulation does not produce a bowel movement within 20 minutes, repeat the procedure.

  • Try to contract the muscles of the abdomen and bear down while releasing the stool. Some people find it helpful to bend forward while bearing down. This increases the abdominal pressure and helps empty the bowel.

  • Perform digital stimulation every day until you establish a pattern of regular bowel movements.

  • You can also stimulate bowel movements by using a suppository (glycerin or bisacodyl) or a small enema. Some people drink warm prune juice or fruit nectar to stimulate bowel movements.

The most important thing to remember when practicing bowel retraining is to be consistent, and to not get frustrated if you don’t see results right away.  This process usually takes a few weeks to develop a normal routine.  If you find that you are still having problems after several weeks of bowel retraining, or if you have additional questions, be sure to consult your physician.

   

 

Finding An Absorbent Product That Works!

Sarah Jenkins

Absorbent Guide

Anyone who has shopped for absorbent products knows that it’s no walk in the park. Walk down any of these isles in Walmart, Target or Walgreens and you’ll find hundreds of products designed to keep you dry.  How do you find the right one for you, and what should be considered when choosing an absorbent product?

The three biggest things you should look at when choosing a product are absorbency, comfort, and fit.  If you don’t have all of these things, you’re not going to have a product that works for your needs.

Absorbency.  When looking at absorbency, make sure you look for products that wick moisture away from the body and those that have cloth-like outer layers for the quietest product available. Specifically select products designed for urinary incontinence because they have super absorbent gels that absorb urine and expand by as much as 20 times for maximum absorbency.  Think about the type of incontinence you are experiencing and then investigate your options – do you experience only occasional leaks, or is it more than that? Do you have nighttime incontinence or do you usually only leak during the day? There are products designed specifically for all of these scenarios so pay attention to the different categories.

Fit.  This is probably the most important thing to pay attention to, and can be the hardest to get right.  Look for a size that accommodates your body type and is not too big or too small.  Otherwise, there can be waste, misfit, and potential leakage.  Just like clothing, different brands may fit you better than others – we’re all unique, after all – so don’t be afraid to try out various brands, or different product lines within a specific brand.

Comfort.  Finding a product that you feel good in can boost your confidence. Think about your lifestyle when choosing a product – are you very active? Do you travel? Do you like to wear certain types of clothing (like skinny jeans) that may necessitate a specific type of product? Do you want to reuse the product or just dispose of it when you are finished wearing it?  Keeping these things in mind will help you when narrowing down the types of products you look at.

It may take several tries to find the right product, but don’t give up.  Once you find something you’re comfortable with, you’ll be secure in knowing that you can get back to your life without fear of leaking.  And if you’re too embarrassed to visit a retail store, there are many online retailers that will deliver product straight to your home. 

For a complete list of all the different types of absorbent products available, click here.  And if you are struggling to find a product that works for nighttime bedwetting, our new Dry Night Solution Kit may be just what you need.  You'll get the chance to speak about your condition and needs with a trained professional and receive custom samples of absorbent and skincare products to try out, all delivered straight to you. You'll also receive some great education on bedwetting and learn new things you can do to manage it. Get your kit today!

Why You Shouldn't Use A Maxi-Pad For Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

Why You Shouldn't Use Maxi Pads For Incontinence

Any woman with incontinence knows the feeling – you’re walking down the absorbent isle and instead of reaching for an absorbent pad made for leaks, you turn and look at the maxi pads.  After all, it’s much less embarrassing to grab a box of those than to admit that you need pads for a leaky bladder, right?

Maybe. But consider this – the products are designed to do entirely different things.  In fact, you are doing yourself a huge disservice if you think you will be able to manage leaks with maxi pads.  Here are the 3 reasons why:

  1. Absorbency. Menstrual pads are designed to hold menstrual flow whereas incontinence pads are designed to absorb the rapid flow of urine. Additionally, incontinence pads are designed to absorb and hold much more fluid than menstrual pads, which means you will have fewer leaks.
  2. Odor Control. Many bladder control pads are made with a wicking fabric that draws moisture away from the skin and eliminates urine odors. Some also contain special gels that change the urine into a more solid substance, which helps with odor.
  3. Skin Protection. The same wicking fabric and gel that help control odor also help protect the skin. Incontinence pads neutralize acidic urine, which can cause skin rashes if left unchanged.

If you’re still too embarrassed to purchase an absorbent product in the store, there are many great online retailers who will ship the product directly to your house, allowing you to purchase the right product for your needs from the privacy of your own home.

Ask The Expert: Protective Underwear or Adult Absorbent Briefs - What's The Difference?

Sarah Jenkins

ask the expert - bedwetting

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Q: What is the difference between protective underwear (pull-ups) and adult absorbent briefs?

A: In the world of absorbent products, it can be hard to find something that works with your needs.  Most adults who wet the bed use some type of protection, usually protective underwear, or an adult absorbent brief.  

Protective underwear are designed to mimic real underwear, and, unlike absorbent briefs, do not have any tape or velcro siding. Many who prefer this pull-on option like it because of it’s convenience - pull ups are easy to put on or remove, and give users a sense of freedom from the typical brief style.  

Absorbent briefs are similar to protective underwear, but have side tabs that can be adjusted for comfort and fit.  Although they may not be as convenient, many prefer this option since they are able to adjust the side tabs, therefore creating a more custom, snug fit which can prevent leaks.  

Choosing the option that is right for you or your loved one may involve some trial and error, and will depend on your circumstances. Do you wake up often at night to use the restroom? Protective underwear may work best for you due to the ease of pulling them on and off. Do you care for someone who is more bedridden and needs more assistance with getting in and out of bed or changing clothes?  Briefs may be preferred since the tabs make it easier to find a good fit and can be easier for caretakers to change.  

Of course, finding a product that will keep you dry is the biggest goal, and relies heavily on fit (it shouldn’t be too big or too small), absorbency (look for products that are specific to night-time use), and function.  Don’t be afraid to try lots of options until you find something that fits well and is comfortable.