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Incontinence Stories From Experts & Real People | NAFC BHealth Blog

Log in daily to learn tips about #incontinence, #bladder leakage, overcoming symptoms, and first hand accounts from experts and patients.

 

Patient Perspectives: Julie's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Julie's Story

I’ve always been close to my Mom, but after my Dad passed away 5 years ago, we became closer than ever. We talked on the phone every day and I checked in with her every weekend. She was still very active, even after Dad passed, and continued to play golf every month, meet her girlfriends for bridge and walk her dog two times a day.  All of this changed when she had a stroke.

Suddenly, my very independent Mom was unable to do most things for herself.  Without a second thought, I took her in and cared for her as much as possible as she began her slow path to recovery. It was a shock to suddenly watch a woman that I always looked to for guidance be suddenly, completely dependent on me.  

I’m not going to lie - it’s been difficult at times.  She has always been a very proud woman and to have to ask for help for things like using the bathroom, or worse, to need help cleaning up after an accident, was mortifying for her and uncomfortable for me.  

After some trial and error, we finally developed a rhythm with each other and learned which products worked best for day and night. Even though it’s hard, I’m so grateful to still have my mom with me, and I can’t thank organizations like NAFC enough for providing education on management options during this difficult time of life. Help is there if you need it - you just need to know where to look.  

Julie F., Tampa, FL

Patient Perspective: Alice's Story

Sarah Jenkins

It’s a funny thing, aging. I’m 68 years old, but I don’t feel any different than I did at 20. It happens so gradually really, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere. One day, you’re sitting there with your whole life ahead of you, and then suddenly, you’re walking along, you glance at your reflection and you see an old woman looking back at you. But you don’t feel any different. At least I didn’t. Until I started having bladder leaks.

My bladder leaks crept up on me just like getting old did. I had a few accidents here and there after kids, but didn’t start really noticing them regularly until I was in my late 50’s. I told myself I was too young to have this problem; that they weren’t that big of a deal and that I could manage it on my own.

The truth is, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know about my leakage problem. I hid it well, or so I thought, but after a while, it started to weigh on me. Always packing a spare change of clothes, always scouting out the nearest bathroom in case of an emergency. It wasn’t until my daughter finally confronted me that I broke down.

I was visiting her at her house when I had an accident and had to change my pants. My daughter noticed and finally decided that enough was enough. She told me how she had watched me for years try to “hide” my problem, and urged me to get help. She also told me how she herself had talked with her doctor after her son was born and she had started experiencing leaks too. “The good news,” she said, “is that I’m doing so much better, and I hardly have any leaks at all anymore. I want that for you too, Mom.”

Talking to my daughter really opened up my eyes. She was right, and I couldn’t believe I had spent so long trying to hide the issue. Worse, I couldn’t believe she had gone through it too. If I had been open about it, maybe I could have offered some comfort to her, but instead she had had to deal with it on her own. I felt ashamed and embarrassed – not because of my bladder leaks, but because of my silence.

So, I decided to finally get help. After so many years of living with the problem, I didn’t realize how much it had taken over my life. And now that I’ve started taking medication for my bladder leaks, I am so much happier and freer.

I am 68, but the 20 year old still lives inside of me. And now, I can proudly say that I feel just as good today as I did back then.

Don’t wait to get help. Take the initiative to talk to your doctor and get the help you need. We can’t all do this alone and life is too short to let a day go by where this condition is controlling you. Suck up your pride, realize that we all need some help once in a while and just do it. I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did.

Alice B., San Jose, CA

Patient Perspective: Ellen's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Ellen's Story

After the birth of my 2nd child, I began experiencing urinary incontinence.  I started leaking a bit here and there, and it only got worse as I got older. I assumed it was just a part of aging and that there was nothing I could do. And while the episodes were embarrassing, I was able to control and hide them pretty well by wearing protection and always keeping a close eye on the toilet. 
 
However, when my youngest was 15 years old, I had my first real bowel accident, and life as I knew it officially changed.  I began having more and more episodes, and eventually didn’t even want to leave the house because I was so terrified of having an accident.  I stopped seeing friends. I ordered groceries and most things I needed online.  I refused to go on dates with my husband.  There is something that feels just a little bit worse about having a bowel accident vs. having a bladder accident – it’s messier, smellier, much more apparent, and just so humiliating that you never want others to know it is something you are going through.  
 
I lived like this for six years before finally realizing that I wasn’t controlling my ABL, it was controlling me.  I got up the nerve to speak with my doctor and was able to have a surgery that helped alleviate many of my issues. 
 
All of this could not have come soon enough – my first granddaughter was born a year ago and to think that I may have missed out on that moment or all the wonderful ones that have followed makes me cringe. My only regret is that I didn’t do something about it sooner.
 
Ellen T., Atlanta, GA
 

Patient Perspective: Sally's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Sally's Story

Once both my kids were in elementary school full time, I finally started working out. I became a runner, and devoted most mornings after they were in school to jogging through the neighborhood. I entered races and started doing small 5Ks, until I finally worked my way up to a full marathon last year. Things were going great and I was feeling strong and happy.

So, imagine my surprise, after years of being an avid runner, to suddenly start experiencing bladder leaks. My kids were not little anymore – they were both in high school at this point and I thought that I bypassed this type of problem that usually accompanies childbirth.

I spoke to my doctor, and found out that, to my surprise, this problem often accompanies serious runners too. Turns out that pounding the pavement every day isn’t so great for your pelvic floor. In fact, my doctor told me that up to 30% of female runners experience incontinence while running.

My doctor said there are lots of things that can weaken the pelvic floor over the years; childbirth, age, and surgeries can all take their toll (I unfortunately check all three boxes). Add to that running several miles per week, and I saw how my activity was contributing to the problem. 

I wasn't ready to give up running, and luckily my doctor didn't think I had to. While there are many therapies available (medication, surgery, exercise), he started me on a regimen of kegel exercises. I do them first thing in the morning, and 3 other times throughout the day.  He also recommended that I try some other behavioral tactics: limit my fluid intake right before my run, make sure to empty my bladder before running, and try planning a route that has some bathroom stops along the way. 

These changes have been helping me a lot and while there might come a time that I consider something like surgery, for now, it helps to know that I’m able to take matters into my own hands and manage my bladder leaks without stopping the activities I love. 

I'm glad I opened up about this condition and can continue my passion!

Sally S., Atlanta, GA

Patient Perspective: Alison's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Alison's story

I'm a survivor. I’ve lived through the joy (and scars) of giving birth to three boys, experienced two job layoffs, suffered through one divorce, and most recently, battled (and beat the shit out of) breast cancer. I didn’t really expect, after all that, to be so impacted by something as trivial as incontinence.

I first started having symptoms during my cancer treatments – my doctor said that it could sometimes be a side effect of chemo – but thought that it would go away once chemo was over. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

A year after completing treatment, I was still experiencing leakage.  At first, I just lived with it, thinking it would go away on it’s own. I packed extra underwear and experimented with various incontinence pads to help me manage.

I finally decided to talk to my doctor when it was clear that my leaky bladder wasn’t getting any better. My doctor had me make some diet adjustments, prescribed a medication to help stop the leaks, and sent me to a physical therapist to help me learn how to strengthen up my pelvic floor. 

I’ve had one year of regular PT sessions and I am happy to say that I rarely have leaks anymore (even after I stopped taking the medication). 

I’ve lived through a lot of setbacks in my life. But after surviving all of the hardships, I certainly wasn’t going to let something like incontinence control me. Life is just too short to live with something that’s so treatable.

Ladies – find the help if you need it.
 

Alison B., San Diego, CA

Patient Perspectives: Marilyn's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Marilyn's Story

My mom has always had urgency issues. Growing up it seemed that almost anything she ate would result in a bathroom trip within the next 30 minutes.  And not just causal bathroom trips either – urgent, NEED TO GO RIGHT NOW, bathroom trips.  These were a constant source of frustration for our family – no one understanding that it was something she couldn’t help. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve experienced some of the same symptoms myself. The urgent needs to empty my bowels, occasional abdominal pains, daily bloating. Thinking that it was just something I inherited, and something that couldn’t really be fixed, I lived with those symptoms for years before casually mentioning it to my doctor during a routine check up.

I was surprised when he mentioned irritable bowel syndrome and after hearing the symptoms, was certain that it was what I, and likely my mother, suffered from for all those years.

After some tests, I was proven correct and he started me on a medication that has mostly erased the discomfort I used to feel on a daily basis.

My Mom has been gone for several years, and I hate that we never pushed her to talk to her doctor about this problem. Thinking back on all the pain and frustration she went through (and likely embarrassment and shame) feels like such a waste considering all that can be done to treat IBS.

But, while it may be too late for her to get treatment, I’m glad that I finally did speak up to my doctor and am not following the same path. Life is just too short to live every day with something that can be treated so easily.
 
Marilyn R., Indianapolis, IN

Patient Perspective: Merrell's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Merrell's Story

I gave birth to my first little bundle of joy a year ago.  My pregnancy was a dream – no morning sickness, no stretch marks - it was a total breeze, apart from the occasional leaks I had leading up to the birth. I had heard leaks were totally normal though, and figured that after baby came, everything would go back to the way it was before, so I didn’t really give them much thought.

After my baby was born, things changed dramatically. Suddenly, I was dealing with breastfeeding problems, sleepless nights, and a fussy baby that needed me 24-7. Not to mention those little leaks that I had before baby came - they were still lingering and I found myself changing my own pants almost as often as I was changing my baby. Every sneeze, laugh, and jump, caused me to leak and it really started to get me down. After all, I was in the middle of learning a new job – the most important job of my life, being a mom – and I couldn’t even get my own body to behave appropriately.

I finally talked to my doctor about it and he recommended physical therapy. I didn’t even know that was an option!  But, turns out that strengthening your core and  your pelvic floor muscles can really help control your bladder. This was great, because I wasn’t prepared to undergo surgery (not recommended if you’re planning on having more kids, like I am), and was really hoping to find a more natural option. So this seemed like a perfect fit for me.

My therapist started by reviewing my anatomy and showing me how all my muscles are connected. She also told me that I had diastasis recti, which is when your stomach muscles separate during pregnancy. This can really weaken your core, which affects your pelvic floor muscles too. She showed me exercises to help bring these muscles back together and strenghten my core. After baby, it’s also important to do your kegels to help get your strength back – my therapist told me that this would help me control those little leaks that I had when I placed stress on my bladder (like when I coughed, sneezed, or laughed).

It’s been 6 months since I started physical therapy and I’m happy to say that I’m leak free! I feel stronger and more in control of my body, and, more importantly, I feel better able to focus on and care for my growing baby.

I’m so happy I sought help. It makes me feel empowered, and better prepared to handle future pregnancies and babies.

New moms – don’t keep quite about this. Talk to your doctor and get help. There’s no need to suffer in silence. 

Merrell N., Austin, TX

Patient Perspective: Terry's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Terry's Story

I feel a little funny writing this since I’ve never really suffered from what I would consider incontinence. Sure, I’ve had a few leaks before, but on a regular basis, I don’t. I suffer from something different – Overactive Bladder. 

It started off simply enough – I’d be doing something like washing the dishes, or coming home from work and I’d get a very sudden NEED to use the restroom.  Like…..right now. Most of the time I would make it, but a couple of times, I did wet myself a little. 

I laughed it off for years – after all, it’s certainly not life threatening, and just didn’t seem like too big of a deal to worry about.  Who goes to the doctor because they have to use the bathroom a lot? So, I went on with life, slowly adjusting my routine to account for my bladder, without really even realizing it.

It wasn’t until I was 56 when my husband finally asked me when I was going to talk to someone about it.  He’d noticed all of my attempts to account for my inconsistent bladder even if I hadn’t – requesting a closer table to the restroom at dinners, always making sure I emptied my bladder before we went out, booking the isle seat in a plane for easier bathroom access, and most of all, my absence – me always running off during any event to go. 

At first I didn’t understand what he meant – I was fine! But when he started pointing out how drastically I had changed, without even realizing it, I knew it was time to get help.

So, the next week I went to see my doctor. Turns out this is a condition a lot of people deal with. He gave me a list of foods to watch out for, prescribed some pelvic floor exercises, and set me up on a medication that seems to be doing its job. 

I can’t believe the positive effects it has had on my life - without even realizing it, I had adjusted my life to fit around my bladder and now that I don’t need to I can finally see how much I truly suffered for many years. If you deal with this condition – get help. It really will make a difference in your life, even if you can’t quite see that now.
 

Terry M., Fort Lauderdale, Fl

 

Patient Perspective: Audra's Story

Sarah Jenkins

 Audra's Story

It took me 8 years to talk to my doctor about my bladder leaks. Allow me to let that sink in for a moment – EIGHT YEARS!!  

Think about how much happens during a span of eight years. For me, I had 2 children, switched jobs once, and had a cross country move in the middle of it all.

You’d think that with all of those life changes I’d be able to address something as simple as bladder leaks. I had a million and one reasons why I put it off for so long:  “It will heal after I recover from childbirth.” “It’s not so bad that I can’t manage it.” “I can just wear a pad.” “I’ll just bring along an extra set of clothes with me in the car just in case.” “I’m usually near a bathroom so should be able to make it most of the time.”

On and on the excuses went. But as the years went by, I got sick of just “dealing with it.” I finally made an appointment with my doctor and felt silly when I told him how long I had been suffering (needlessly).  He first set me up with a Physical Therapist to work on strengthening my pelvic floor, and also prescribed me a medication to take. The PT helped me a lot and after nearly 6 months of regular therapy, I was able to quit the medication all together. Now I just go for regular check ups, but keep up the exercises at home on my own.

I feel stronger and leak free, but most of all, I feel in control of my own life again. I’ll never let something like the fear of embarrassment prevent me from getting the medical attention I need again. 

Audra S., Missoula, MT

 

Sometimes, A New Perspective Can Make All The Difference

Sarah Jenkins

 Patient Perspectives

Incontinence. It’s not something we like to talk about, but it can happen to all of us. In fact, more than 25 million people live with some type of incontinence every day. And for most of those people, it takes them an average of about 6-7 years just to talk to their doctor about the problem.  That’s 6-7 years living with leaks. 6-7 years hiding accidents from loved ones. 6-7 years trying to find ways to cope with the condition. 6-7 years of letting the condition limit relationships with friends, family and work. And it’s 6-7 years of allowing incontinence to control you.

At NAFC, we hear from a lot of people with questions about their condition; how to manage it, how to stop it, and what products to try. But the one emotion that rings true in everyone is shame and embarrassment.  Women and men are so very ashamed of this condition that it keeps them from getting close to others. It causes them to avoid doing the things they once loved.  It prevents them from getting help for their bladder leaks. It keeps them from living a life without leaks.

If you’ve spent any time on our site, you know that we have tools to help you. That there are management options available and new alternatives coming out practically every day that you can try to overcome this condition. But for all the absorbent pads, devices, medications, exercises, and procedures that are out there, none of them will do a thing if you’re not willing to admit that you have this problem and that you need to do something about it.

Sometimes, the best motivation comes from other sufferers. So over the next two months, we’re rounding up stories from both women and men to help you see inside the lives of others like you. To help you know that you’re not alone. And to show you that once you find the courage to do something about incontinence, your life can be so much fuller. Many of our sufferers wish they had taken action much sooner. They wish they had talked with someone about the condition: their spouse, a friend, or their doctor.  We hope that in reading their stories, you’ll find the courage to speak up about incontinence and to do something about it.  

So please stay with us and hear from these brave women and men who have shared their stories. And who knows – maybe from them you’ll find the strength to be the next voice.

Throughout May, during Women’s Health Month, we’ll be sharing stories of women who have overcome incontinence. In June, we’ll share all of our stories from men. We’re excited you’re here, and can’t wait for you to hear what

How To Stop Waking Up At Night To Pee

Sarah Jenkins

 How To Stop Waking Up To Pee

Do you find yourself waking up more than once to use the bathroom at night? You may have nocturia, a condition that causes you to need to get out of bed to pee 2 or more times in one night. And while a couple extra trips to the bathroom may seem harmless, it can lead to fragmented, disrupted sleep, leaving you tired and cranky the next day. 

Below are 5 things you can try to stop those frequent trips to the bathroom at night.

#1 Keep A Bladder Diary.

It may sound funny to track your bathroom visits, but a bladder diary is a great tool in identifying the culprits that may be causing you to use the bathroom more often at night. A bladder diary will track your fluid intake (type and amount), how often you use the bathroom during the day, how often you get up to use the bathroom at night, and whether or not that accompanies any bladder leakage.  Keep it for 4-7 days to help you spot any trends. This tool is also useful for your doctor so hang onto it and share it with him or her on your next visit.

Download the NAFC Bladder Diary for Nocturia Here!  

#2 Minimize Urine Production at night

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s important. As we age, we tend to not be able to hold as much in our bladder, which can make us have to use the bathroom more often even if we’re drinking the same amount as we always have before. Be careful not to limit your fluids too much, but do watch what you’re eating and drinking in the few hours before bed to ensure you’re not falling asleep with an already too full bladder. 

  • Avoid excessive fluid intake 4-6 hours before bed (this includes both food and drinks)
  • Avoid caffeine after the morning and limit alcohol at night. Both alcohol and caffeine can make urine more acidic which can irritate the lining of the bladder, causing you to need the bathroom more frequently.
  • Empty your bladder before bed.
  • Take any medications that may act as diuretics earlier in the day if possible (check with your doctor on this first).

#3 Redistribute fluid

If your ankles or legs swell up during the day, the fluid that builds up then gets sent back into the bloodstream when you lie down to sleep, which increases your blood pressure. As a result, the kidneys start working overtime to create more urine so your body can flush the excess fluid out of your system, and consequently causing you to wake up to empty your bladder.  If you’re experiencing swollen ankles or legs, try some of these tips to help redistribute fluid throughout the day and minimize accumulation.

  • Elevate the legs periodically to avoid any fluid build up in the ankles and calves.
  • Use Compression Socks. These elastic stockings exert pressure against the leg while decreasing pressure on the veins, allowing fluids to be redistributed and reabsorbed into the bloodstream. (Check out these super cute ones from Vim&Vigr.)

#4 Practice good sleep hygiene.

Setting yourself up for a good nights sleep can help fight off insomnia, which may be part of the reason you’re up in the first place.  While waking up to go to the bathroom may be the culprit of your insomnia, it could also be that not being able to go or stay asleep could be contributing to nocturia. Many people only think they have to go to the bathroom at night but when they get up to go, they produce just a trickle. This may mean that insomnia, and not nocturia, is actually the culprit and can be caused by a host of different reasons. Be sure to practice good Sleep Hygiene to encourage a functional circadian rhythm (which is your body’s natural clock) and ensure you’re not sabotaging your own sleep. Check out the National Sleep Foundation’s article on sleep hygiene, which discuses the tips below in greater detail:

  • Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Set a consistent sleep and wake time.
  • Exercise regularly (but not right before bed)
  • Avoid foods that may be disruptive right before sleep (like spicy or heavy, rich foods)
  • Reserve the bed for sleep and sex
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine
  • Keep your bedroom quite, comfortable, and dark.

#5 Talk to your doctor

While the above tips may help ease your nocturia a bit, it’s usually a good idea to see a professional to treat your nocturia. Behavioral changes don’t always address the causes of nocturia. Nocturia is most often caused by nocturnal polyuria, a condition where the kidneys produce too much urine.  That’s why treating nocturia at the source is so important.  If you’re only focused on curing, say, overactive bladder, you’re only targeting the bladder, not the kidneys. In reality, both conditions should be treated to effectively manage their respective symptoms.

“Nocturia has always been hard to treat, but it is now recognized as more than just a symptom of another medical issue,“ says Dr. Donna Deng, Urologic Surgeon at The Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser Oakland Department of Urology.

Nocturia does sometimes have underlying causes so it’s important to get a thorough checkup done by your doctor to rule out any other conditions.

Download our guide to Preparing For Your Doctor Visit to help you talk to your doctor about nocturia. 

 

Why You Shouldn't Let Nocturia Go Untreated

Sarah Jenkins

 Why You Shouldn't Let Nocturia Go Untreated

How often do you wake up at night to use the bathroom? Two times a night?  Three times a night? More than that? It may not seem like a huge deal, but waking up two or more times a night to empty your bladder is not normal, and is a condition that can and should be treated. It can be a huge bother to those who have it and is likely affecting your health in ways you may not even realize.

Nocturia, defined as going to the bathroom 2 or more times at night, happens to about 1 in 3 people over the age of 30, and becomes more common as we age.  Patients with severe nocturia may get up 5 or 6 times during the night to go the bathroom.  And while all these trips to the bathroom may feel more annoying than anything, they are having a big effect on your sleep patterns and put you at risk for a number of other issues. 

Sleep plays a big role in our physical and mental functioning.  Less sleep at night and lower sleep efficiency have both been associated with things like an increased risk of poor physical function, of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as a reduced physical function and decreased cognitive function. Not only that, but quality of life is greatly affected:  A US study of 1214 women showed that nocturia had a significant impact on quality of life in patients who made at least 2 trips to the bathroom at night.  It makes sense – the less sleep we get, the more tired we are the next day, affecting our abilities to do our daily tasks and be our best selves.  Even work is affected – lower work productivity and increased sick leave have been reported in patients with nocturia. Getting up often in the night also increases the chance of falls among older adults with nocturia.  Studies have shown that patients who make at least 2 or more trips to the bathroom at night have a greater than 2-fold increase in the risk of fractures and fall-related fractures.

And if you’re the one with nocturia, its not just you that is affected.  Your partners are waking up with you. In one study 46% of women were waking up at night due to their partners nighttime bathroom visits.  Another study that looked at men with nocturia and their spouses showed that sleep disturbance was rated as the most inconvenient issue, with 62% of spouses reporting fatigue, and 36% reporting feeling dissatisfied, unhappy, or terrible.  Your nocturia is not only costing you a good night’s sleep – it’s preventing your partner from getting one as well.

If you have nocturia, don’t let it go untreated. There are lots of behavioral options you can try to fix the problem and if those don’t work, your doctor can prescribe a medication. New medications are now available to treat nocturnal polyuria specifically. Nocturnal polyuria is a condition where the kidneys produce too much urine, and is the most common cause of nocturia. 

“What’s exciting is that physicians are learning more about nocturia and now have more treatment options available for their patients,” says Eric Rovner, MD, a Professor in the Department of Urology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and the director of the Section of Voiding Dysfunction, Female Urology and Urodynamics in the Department of Urology at MUSC.

If you live with nocturia, talk to your doctor today about things you can try to stop those middle of the night bathroom trips, and get back to a full nights sleep.

Need help finding a doctor in your area? Use our Find A Specialist Tool!

References:  1. Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Donald L. Bilwise, Jens Peter Norgaard. The effect of nocturia on sleep. Sleep Med Review. 2011 April; 15(2): 91-97.  2. Kupelian V, Wei JT, O'Leary MP, Norgaard JP, Rosen RC, McKinlay JB. Nocturia and quality of life: results from the Boston Area Community Health Survey. Eur Urol. 2012;61(1):78-84. 3. Cappuccio FP, Cooper D, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, Miller MA. Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and metoanalysis of prospective studies. Eur Heart J. 2011;32(12):1484-1492. 4. Fiske J, Scarpero HM, Xue X, Nitti VW. Degree of bother caused by nocturia in women. Neurourol Urodyn. 2004;23(2):130–3. 5. Ohayon MM. Nocturnal awakenings and comorbid disorders in the American general population. J Psychiatr Res. 2008 Nov;43(1):48–54. 6. Kobelt G, Borgstrom F, Mattiasson A. Productivity, vitality and utility in a group of healthy professionally active individuals with nocturia. BJU Int. 2003 Feb;91(3):190–5. 7. Nakagawa H, Ikeda Y, Niu K, Kaiho Y, Ohmori-Matsuda K, Nakaya N, et al. Does nocturia increase fall-related fractures and mortality in a community-dwelling elderly population aged 70 years and over? Results of a 3-year prospective cohort study in Japan. Neurourol Urodyn. 2008;27:674–5. 8. Asplund R. Hip fractures, nocturia, and nocturnal polyuria in the elderly. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2006 Nov;43(3):319–26. [PubMed] 9. Shvartzman P, Borkan JM, Stoliar L, Peleg A, Nakar S, Nir G, et al. Second-hand prostatism: effects of prostatic symptoms on spouses’ quality of life, daily routines and family relationships. Fam Pract. 2001 Dec;18(6):610–3. 10. Kim SC, Lee SY. Men’s lower urinary tract symptoms are also mental and physical sufferings for their spouses. J Korean Med Sci. 2009 Apr;24(2):320–5.

 

 

Ask The Expert: What's The Difference Between IBS And Crohn's Disease?

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: What’s the difference between IBS and Crohn’s Disease? Could I have both?

Answer: While both of these conditions seem to have similar symptoms, they are in fact different, and, yes, it is possible for someone to have both at the same time. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two:

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that affects parts of the digestive tract. Symptoms often include diarrhea, a frequent need to move your bowels, stomach pain, and bloating (all symptoms of IBS). However, with Crohn’s disease, patients also may notice things like vomiting, tiredness, weight loss, fever, or even bleeding.  It’s not certain what causes Crohn’s disease, but most experts believe it is an abnormality in the immune system that can trigger the condition. Chron’s disease is also more common in those with a family history of the disease.

IBS (also called “spastic colon”) carries similar symptoms to Crohn’s disease – cue the diarrhea, frequent trips to the bathroom, and stomach pain.  However, treatment for Crohn’s disease and IBS are different so it pays to be examined for both so that you understand what is causing your symptoms and you can treat it appropriately.  Testing for both conditions can be done with a physical exam, blood test, and usually a colonoscopy or other type of endoscopy procedure.

If you experience any symptoms related to IBS or Crohn’s disease, make an appointment with your doctor today to get tested.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

Behavioral Therapies For Reducing Nocturia

Steve Gregg

Nocturia is defined as needing to get up to use the restroom two or more times at night. It is often a symptom of other medical conditions and becomes more common as we age.  Having to get up and use the restroom that often in the middle of the night can be an especially challenging condition for a caregiver to deal with, as it disrupts not only their loved one’s sleep, but theirs as well.  

Here are a few tips to help manage the symptoms:

  • Just before going to bed, urinate and then double-void, relaxing so as to empty your bladder as much as possible
  • Restrict fluid intake: No fluids the last three hours before retiring to bed
  • Eliminate alcohol and caffeine, especially the last three hours before retiring to bed
  • Take a late afternoon rest, lying down for an hour and elevating your legs on a pillow so that heels are higher than your chest, at least two hours before retiring
  • If there is any swelling, or edema, in your feet or ankles, wear compression stockings during the day
  • During the day, consume fruits and vegetables that have natural diuretic properties. A good example is lemon fruit, believed due to its high vitamin C content, according to Purdue University. Others are watermelon, cantaloupe, pears and peaches

The combination of afternoon naps, elevation of legs and compression stockings may reduce fluid build and help alleviate nocturia. In some individuals one of these three options is sufficient in reducing the needed to get up and use the restroom every evening.

As always, consult your physician and understand what treatment options are available. And let us know you’re thoughts in the comments. Nocturia is incredibly common—maybe you have other tips we should consider!  

Do I Have Nocturia?

Sarah Jenkins

 Do I Have Nocturia?

It’s 2 am and you’re up to use the bathroom. Again. Sound familiar? If your bladder is constantly waking you up to relieve itself, you may suffer from a condition called nocturia. 

Nocturia is defined as the need to use the bathroom 2 or more times in one night. It’s a very common condition – in fact, 1 in 3 adults over the age of 30 have it – although it tends to occur more as we age.  Nocturia causes us to wake up multiple times at night, disrupting our sleep, which can cause some serious side effects. The interrupted sleep caused by nocturia can cause real problems with your quality of life and your health. Many people dealing with nocturia experience fatigue, poor physical function, and decreased cognitive function due to insufficient sleep. Nocturia is also associated with an increased risk for falls (especially worrisome for older adults) and mortality, so it’s a good idea to get it treated. 

The causes of nocturia can vary, but it’s most often caused by nocturnal polyuria, a condition where the kidneys produce too much urine.  That’s why treating nocturia at the source is so important.  If you’re only focused on treating, say, overactive bladder, you’re only targeting the bladder, not the kidneys. In reality, both conditions should be treated to effectively manage their respective symptoms.

How do I know if I have nocturia?

If you often wake up 2 or more times in one night to use the bathroom, you probably have nocturia. You may also notice that you feel groggy during the day and your productivity may even be impacted.  If this sounds like you, don’t let it go untreated.

Start by keep a bladder diary for a few days to see if you can spot any trends. (Download our free bladder diary for nocturia here.) You may notice that you’re consuming a certain type or quantity of food or drink on the nights your nocturia occurs. Or maybe a specific medication that you take at night is the culprit. Track your activity for a few days then make some adjustments on your findings to see if it makes a difference.  Some things you may want to try include:

  • Limiting fluids a few hours before bed. This includes water rich foods as well.
  • Avoiding alcohol or caffeine before bed
  • Elevating your legs, or wearing compression stockings (if you notice you have any ankle or calve swelling during the day, indicating fluid build up in the legs.

If none of these behavioral options work, you’ll need to make a visit to your doctor to rule out some of the other potential causes of your nocturia. Your doctor can also prescribe a medication specifically for nocturia to help eliminate your nighttime bathroom trips (Noctiva, the first FDA approved treatment of nocturia has recently become available).

Need help finding a specialist near you? Use our specialist finder!

References: 1. Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Donald L. Bilwise, Jens Peter Norgaard. The effect of nocturia on sleep. Sleep Med Review. 2011 April; 15(2): 91-97. 2. Kupelian V, Wei JT, O'Leary MP, Norgaard JP, Rosen RC, McKinlay JB. Nocturia and quality of life: results from the Boston Area Community Health Survey. Eur Urol. 2012;61(1):78-84. 3. Cappuccio FP, Cooper D, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, Miller MA. Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and metoanalysis of prospective studies. Eur Heart J. 2011;32(12):1484-1492. 4. Fiske J, Scarpero HM, Xue X, Nitti VW. Degree of bother caused by nocturia in women. Neurourol Urodyn. 2004;23(2):130–3. 5. Ohayon MM. Nocturnal awakenings and comorbid disorders in the American general population. J Psychiatr Res. 2008 Nov;43(1):48–54.  6. Kobelt G, Borgstrom F, Mattiasson A. Productivity, vitality and utility in a group of healthy professionally active individuals with nocturia. BJU Int. 2003 Feb;91(3):190–5. 7. Nakagawa H, Ikeda Y, Niu K, Kaiho Y, Ohmori-Matsuda K, Nakaya N, et al. Does nocturia increase fall-related fractures and mortality in a community-dwelling elderly population aged 70 years and over? Results of a 3-year prospective cohort study in Japan. Neurourol Urodyn. 2008;27:674–5. 8. Asplund R. Hip fractures, nocturia, and nocturnal polyuria in the elderly. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2006 Nov;43(3):319–26. [PubMed] 9. Weiss JP. Prevalence of nocturnal polyuria in nocturia. J Urol. 2009;181(4):538.  10. Weiss JP, van Kerrebroeck PE, Klein BM, Norgaard JP. Excessive nocturnal urine production is a major contributing factor to the etiology of nocturia. J Urol. 2011;186(4):1358-1363.

NAFC Resources To Help You Manage And Treat Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

 NAFC Resources To Help You Manage Incontinence

If you have incontinence, it can be hard to know the next steps to take for treatment. Maybe you’ve just started experiencing leaks and are looking for a solution. Or maybe you’ve been living with bladder leaks for a while and are finally ready to seek help. Either way, NAFC has you covered. Whether you are looking for downloadable tools, patient stories, help with finding a specialist, others like you to talk with, or educational videos, we’ve probably got it. Take a look at our many resources below and spend some time exploring our site. You’re sure to find some new tools you didn’t know about that may be just what you need to push you to that next phase of treatment. 

Learning Library

Not a fan of reading? No problem! The Learning Library is full of educational videos on incontinence, management options, inspirational stories, and education about your condition. Check it out here.

Find A Specialist Tool

The Find A Specialist Tool helps you find a professional in your area to treat your specific problem. Sort by area, and occupation, then click in to specialists in your area to see their specialty, gender, patient focus, and practice information including address, website and phone number.  Need help understanding the different types of specialists out there? Read our breakdown here.

Diaries

Ever thought about writing down your bladder and bowel habits? We know it sounds weird, but tracking your bathroom activities, leaks, food and drink intake, and physical activity can actually shed a lot of light on your issue and may highlight specific triggers that are causing you to experience leaks. NAFC offers FREE bladder and bowel diaries that you can download directly from our site. Download them here!

NAFC Bedwetting Kit

If you are one of the millions who live with a bedwetting problem, we’ve got your back. As one of the most searched for topics on nafc.org, we’ve worked with Home Delivery Incontinence Supply (HDIS) to develop a kit just for you that allows you to try out a variety of different absorbent and protection products at a very low price. You’ll be able to speak with an HDIS consultant about your problem and get recommendations specifically for you.  Plus, it’s all delivered straight to your home in a non-descript package. It couldn’t be much easier than that! Learn more about the NAFC Bedwetting Kit and order yours here.

OAB Treatment Tracker

OAB, or Overactive Bladder, is that frustrating condition that causes you have to need the bathroom every 5 minutes, and right away!  The urge comes on suddenly and can lead to leaks if you aren’t able to make it in time. There are lots of treatment options for OAB, and the OAB Treatment Tracker helps you find one that’s right for you. Take the short quiz and receive a customized printout of your answers, plus information about treatments that may be right for you. This is a great tool to take with you to your doctor to help facilitate a discussion about the condition and treatments you may want to try. Take the quiz now!

BHealth Blog

If you’re reading this article, you likely already know about the BHealth Blog. It’s a great place to find new information and perspectives on incontinence, pelvic floor disorders, and new developments in these fields. We also regularly have experts weigh in on reader questions, offer patient perspectives on different conditions or treatment options, and provide tips and tricks for managing your condition.  Add the BHealth Blog to your bookmarked page and visit us often to stay abreast of all things incontinence. Or sign up for our RSS feed here! 

NAFC Newsletter

The NAFC Consumer Newsletter, On The Go, is sent out once a month and is filled with educational articles, perspectives and expert advice. Like our blog, we offer new learning’s every month. It’s a great way to stay up to date and learn new management tips. Sign up for the NAFC Newsletter here! 

(Psst – are you a healthcare professional? When you sign up as an HCP you’ll receive a special newsletter, The Continence Connection, geared just toward you!) 

NAFC Message Boards

With nearly 2,000 users, the NAFC Message Boards has become THE place to go to connect with others also experiencing incontinence issues. Join the message board community to hear what others have to say about a variety of topics including fighting the social stigma of incontinence, finding new treatments, controlling odors, managing the emotional impact of incontinence, bedwetting and much, much more.  Join today and read through the posts. And when you’re ready, add your voice.

FREE Downloadable Tools and Brochures

Our Resource Center may just be one of the best-kept secrets of NAFC. It’s loaded with brochures and tips sheets on a variety of topics, most of which you can download for FREE. Check out brochures on Addressing and Treating Adult Bedwetting, Guides for Home Hygiene, Caregiver Booklets, a Pelvic Organ Prolapse Brochure, Overactive Bladder and Stress Urinary Incontinence Brochures, and more.  Visit the Resource Center today and explore all the tools available to you.

Have any other ideas for tools or resources we could provide to you? We’re all ears!  Let us know in the comments below!

NAFC's Review Of 3 Popular Kegel Apps

Sarah Jenkins

 NAFC's Review Of Three Popular Kegel Apps

You’ve probably heard that kegel exercises are important for your pelvic floor health. This is true – strong pelvic floor muscles can help you keep control of your bladder so you’re not leaking when you sneeze or laugh, and a toned pelvic floor can even improve your sex life!  But when it comes to doing them, well, they’re easy to dismiss or forget.

That’s where an app comes in handy. There’s an app for everything these days, it seems, and kegel exercises are no exception. And while we always advocate getting a proper examination of your pelvic floor prior to beginning any work out program (especially if you are experiencing problems in that area), these apps can do wonders in teaching you how to do the moves that strengthen and relax your pelvic floor, in addition to just reminding you to do the exercises in the first place.

We reviewed three popular apps for increasing pelvic floor health. Read our takeaways below!

Kegel Trainer – Exercises

This is the most basic trainer of the three we tested, with all of the exercises focused on kegels exclusively. The sessions are between 30 to 3:00 minutes each, and are appropriate for men and women. The app is free to download, but to get past the second level or gain access to additional features, you’ll need to pay up to $5.49, depending on what you want to access.  If you’re looking for a very simple app that gives you daily reminders to do your kegels, this works well. But we wish it had a bit more in the way of education on how to do a kegel, and a greater variety of pelvic floor exercises.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Squeezy

NHS Pelvic Floor App: At $3.99, this app is a bit pricy, but the simple interface, and the fact that it was designed by physiotherapists specializing in Women’s Health make it well worth it.  The app comes with customizable exercise plans, reminders to do your exercises, and a “professional mode” which allows your physical therapist to help create a detailed plan for you. Visual and audio guides help ensure that you’re doing the exercises correctly, and you’re able to track and monitor your progress over time. This is a great app for anyone looking to improve problems related to bladder, bowel, or pelvic floor muscles and is an excellent compliment to physical therapy programs.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Pelvic Floor First

Developed by the Continence Foundation of Australia, this app is all encompassing and provides you with a complete workout regimen for getting your pelvic floor and core in shape. It’s great for women experiencing leaks, overactive bladder, women with prolapse, or women experiencing painful sex or pelvic pain. We love that this app gives a good overview of how the muscles work, and a visual of your anatomy so that you can actual see how the pelvic muscles are connected and what they support.  The video & audio guides for each move are very helpful, and we love that the focus is not just on kegels, but building strength throughout the core, which is critical to having a strong pelvic floor.  Workout moves are separated into three categories from beginner to advanced, and in total last from 30-50 minutes. But, you can also choose to view individual exercise moves and save them to form your own custom workouts if you choose. The app also has a share option, which is nice if you’d like to work with your physical therapist on monitoring your workouts. This is a great overall app for working your pelvic floor.  And best of all, it’s FREE!

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

As always, we recommend that you consult with a physical therapist prior to starting a pelvic floor exercise program, especially if you are experiencing any types of bladder, bowel or pelvic floor issues.  Sometimes these issues may be caused by a pelvic floor that is too tight, and doing certain exercises, such as kegels, may exacerbate those issues.  A physical therapist can give you a thorough evaluation and recommend a plan that works best for you.

Ask The Expert: What's The Best Adult Absorbent Product On The Market?

Sarah Jenkins

 NAFC 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: When I go to the grocery store, I'm faced with a wall of different incontinence products. How do I choose what's right for me? What’s the best adult absorbent product on the market?

Answer:  This is a really tough question, and to be honest, there’s no one answer. Finding an absorbent product that’s right for you takes patients and depends on your specific circumstances.  We always recommend paying attention to what we call the “3 F’s”, Form, Fit, and Function. First and foremost, it’s important to look for a good fit (you don’t want anything too big or too small, as both of those factors can cause leaks). Next, you’ll want to think about function and how you need the product to work for – do you leak during the day or at night? When you do leak, is it just a little bit, or a lot? There are different products for all of these specific problems so you’ll want to consider what you struggle with the most and pay attention to the packaging and description of the products your choosing.  Finally, think about form, which relates directly to your lifestyle. Are you very active? Absorbent briefs or pads may work best. Are you confined to a bed or chair? You may want to look for something easier to remove. 

All of these factors play an important part in choosing an absorbent product that works for you. As for specific brands, there are a lot out there, even beyond what you may find in a big box store.  Do your homework and look online too. Online shopping for absorbents has it’s own benefits, like greater selection, and being able to shop privately in your own home.  Many online retailers also have consultants on hand to help you weed through the massive selection of products based on your needs.

Good luck, and remember to keep trying. It may take a several tries to find “the one” but once you do, the peace of mind to know that you’re protected, and comfortable, will be worth the effort.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

Patient Perspective: The Shame Is Real

Sarah Jenkins

 Many people talk about the physical struggle with insomnia, but the emotional aspect is just as tough to deal with.

When you hear about incontinence in the news, you always hear about the physical hardships – the leaking, needing to bring an extra change of clothes everywhere, keeping things clean. But unless you live with this condition, the one thing you don’t truly know about is the shame that accompanies it. Sure, everyone knows that it’s embarrassing to pee your pants as an adult, especially in public. But until you’ve actually been in that horror stricken moment, you really have no idea. 

Those of us who know this know that incontinence is more than just the occasional wet pants. It’s the hiding from your spouse so they don’t see that you wet yourself again. It’s the avoiding every social situation where you don’t know for sure a bathroom will be nearby. It’s feeling bad about yourself because you have this problem that you can’t control, even though it feels like you should be able to. It’s feeling like you’re the only adult with this problem. It’s all of that, plus the physical part too.

The truth is the emotional challenges of dealing with incontinence can be worse than the actual physical parts of the condition. But learning to manage it successfully can go a long way in easing the pain and embarrassment of the problem. NAFC is a great resource to those of us who live with incontinence. Take the time to explore the site and the many tools and tips they have to offer – it’s helped me a great deal and if you look hard enough you may just find the one tip or trick that takes you from embarrassment to freedom.

Bradley M., Nashville, TN

The Best Bathroom Locator Apps

Sarah Jenkins

 The Best Bathroom Finder Apps

We’ve all been there – you’re out and about and the sudden urge to go to the bathroom strikes out of nowhere. You race to find a bathroom, praying to make it in time (and praying that the conditions of the facility are acceptable). This scenario is no fun at all. But luckily, there are some clever apps out there that make finding a bathroom a little easier, and give you more confidence when traveling, running errands, or socializing with friends and family. Here’s our roundup of the 4 best Bathroom Finders available now. All are available on IOS and Android platforms.

Sit Or Squat:

Sit Or Squat was developed by Charmin to help you find a public restroom near you, wherever you may be (even traveling outside the US). Boasting 100,000 listings, this app has you covered, and is easy and free to use. Sit or Squat allows you to view bathrooms in list or map view, and lets you filter locations for things like ‘handicap accessible’, or ‘baby changing table’. It also lets you rate bathrooms by cleanliness (a  “Sit” rating indicates a clean bathroom while a “Squat” rating indicates a bathroom with less desirable conditions.) All in all, this is a great app with an easy to use interface.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Got To Go Restroom Finder

The Got TO Go Restroom Finder App is free to download and operates only in North America, and lists restrooms as a map or list view.  Users are able to filter views by which locations are open near them, and the type of location it is (gas station, restaurant, retail store, or government/public building). You can also see cleanliness ratings, rate the bathroom yourself, or add new bathrooms to the app.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Bathroom Scout

Bathroom Scout has over 1,800,000 bathrooms listed worldwide, including public toilets, or restrooms in restaurants and other facilities. The service offers turn by turn directions to bathrooms near you, the ability to see a Google Street View of the location (if images are available), and the ability to rate the condition of the bathrooms.  The free version contains ads, but the paid pro version also offers a satellite view, no ads, and a waterfall sound for when you need a bit of sound cover when using a public restroom.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Flush

Flush operates worldwide with 190,000 restrooms stored in it’s free app. Like others listed here, you can see restrooms by both map and list view and get directions to nearby toilets. Flush also lets you filter bathrooms by “disabled access, “requires key”, and “requires fee”.  Another great feature is that the app works even when you don’t have an internet connection, allowing you to find a bathroom in an emergency even when cell service is spotty.

Download the app: Google Play, iTunes

Keep in mind that these apps are only updated when users add new information, such as new locations, information, or ratings. So they likely wont have every available toilet listed, and you may not know all the details on cleanliness or other features if users have not rated it.  But, in a pinch, it can be nice to have one of these apps handy to help you out. And, if you add your own finds in places that you visit frequently, it can serve as a helpful tool for you day-to-day when you’re out and about in your community.

Do you know of any other helpful apps you think might benefit our readers? Share them in the comments below!