What Is A Pessary And Do I Need One?

What Is A Pessary And Do I Need One?

If you have incontinence, or a pelvic organ prolapse, you’ve likely heard the term “pessary” tossed around at some point.  Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which your pelvic floor becomes weak or compromised – sometimes due to age, sometimes due to trauma (like childbirth), causing one or more of your pelvic organs to collapse into the vagina. Pelvic organ prolapse can be mild, or severe, and symptoms can vary greatly depending on the severity. Some women may not even realize they have a prolapse until later in life.  Symptoms can include pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the vagina, incontinence, or even pain.

While some women can see big improvements in their condition with physical therapy, the condition cannot truly be “fixed” without surgery.  But, it is possible to manage pelvic organ prolapse by using a pessary. 

A pessary is a medical device, typically made out of silicone that is placed in the vagina and is used to support the pelvic floor, and the bladder, uterus and rectum.  Pessaries are not a one-size-fits all type of device. Everyone is different so your doctor will usually fit you for one that works for you. This may take a few tries, so don’t get discouraged if the first one you try doesn’t feel quite right.  Just be open with your doctor and work with them until you get the right fit.

Once you’ve found the right fit, your doctor will train you on how to insert and remove the device.  You’ll also learn how to care for your pessary, which will require weekly or biweekly cleansing.   

Pessaries can be a great solution for women with pelvic organ prolapse, or bladder incontinence, who don’t want to consider surgery (or are not quite ready for surgery yet).  It works by “holding up” the organs that may have collapsed into the vagina, relieving many of the side effects of a prolapse, such as the feeling of pressure or heaviness in the vagina, or incontinence.   

If you think you may be a good candidate for a pessary, talk to your doctor. They can review the pros and cons and help get you fitted for one.  It’s a great option for those experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and can provide great relief without undergoing surgery.

 

Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Talking about incontinence is hard for many people.  Even talking to a doctor can be challenging: on average, people wait 7 years before even seeking help for this condition.  But sometimes opening up can be the best thing you can do to begin the process of moving past your embarrassment and moving on to treatment.  

But how do you start? And whom do you start with?  Our advice is simple: find someone you trust and whom you think will be supportive. Many times this is a spouse or a partner, or a close friend or family member.  You don’t need to shout about your bladder leaks from the rooftops – often just telling one person helps to unleash the burden you’ve been carrying around and can help give voice to the anxiety and worry that has been racing around in your head.

Here are some great tips to follow when starting the conversation: 

1. Set the conversation up by letting them know that you need their support.  Some ways to start the conversation might be:

  • “I’ve been dealing with a health issue for a while and could really use someone to talk to about it. Can I talk to you?”

  • “I have a condition that’s really been getting me down. Do you have a moment to talk?”

  • “As a close friend/spouse/family member, I know that you are supportive of me. Can I talk openly to you about an issue I’ve been experiencing?”

 2. Be open.  If you’re going to talk to them, then make sure you’re being open and honest.  We know talking to others about your own bladder leakage can be hard, but if you’re really talking to someone close to you, they’ve likely suspected something was up for a while.  Let them know not just the issue, but how it’s been making you feel. 

3. Tell them what you need from them.  Are you talking to them because you don’t want to hide the problem anymore? Do you need some help researching treatment options? Are you asking for their advice on what to do? Or do you just want a sounding board to help get some things off your chest? Whatever the case may be, help them be there for you by letting them know what you expect from them.

Opening up can be hard, but it’s healthy to talk about the things that are bothering you.  And, if you feel that you don’t have anyone close to you to discuss the issue (or even if you do!), make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to give you sound advice and treatment recommendations. And, it’s likely that he’s been in that seat before with other patients, so he knows just what you’re going through.   

Need help finding a physician? Visit our Find A Specialist Tool!

Does Incontinence Give You Social Anxiety? Here Are Four Ways To Deal With It.

Incontinence And Social Anxiety. 4 Ways To Deal With It.

Living with incontinence can present many physical challenges – needing to get to a restroom quickly, changing clothes or bedding after an accident, cleaning yourself up after a leak. But the emotional effects may be the most damaging.

Those who don’t live with this condition may not realize the impact that it has on it’s victims: fear of social events or gatherings, constantly seeking out bathrooms in the event of an emergency, concerns about unpleasant odors, and the incessant fear of having an accident in public, or that people will learn your secret. These are real side effects that can’t be ignored, and can create great social anxiety for people living with incontinence. For many people, it’s enough that they avoid social functions at all cost, causing their relationships with friends and family to wane.  

If you live with social anxiety because of incontinence, there are some things you can do to overcome it. See our list below for our 4 best tips. 

Be Prepared. 

Prevention is always the best medicine.  Make sure you’re prepared for a social situation by arming yourself with the right products and information. If you’ve got plans to attend a social event, make sure you’re prepared in the case of an accident.  Know where the bathrooms are and have a spare set of clothes in case you need to change quickly.  Choose your clothing wisely – black is often a forgiving color in the event of leaks. 

Stay Active.  

Keeping a regular fitness routine can do wonders for both your incontinence and your anxiety.  Maintaining an optimal weight can help minimize bladder leaks. And, regular movement can be an effective way to control cases of mild anxiety. You don’t need any fancy equipment or gym membership to make this happen either. Just getting outside for a 30 minute walk most days of the week will do wonders. (Read our tips on how to start a walking group!

Talk About It. 

Sometimes you just need to get your frustrations out. If your incontinence is affecting your mood, find a close friend or family member you trust to talk about it. Often just telling someone our troubles can take a load off and us feel not quite so alone. Don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to? Sign up for the NAFC message boards and connect with thousands of people who understand what you’re going through and are ready to listen. If all else fails, write your situation and feelings down on paper.  Journaling can be a great way to explore how you’re feeling and make sense of your emotions.

Get Treatment.

We’ve saved the best tip for last.  Treatment, for both incontinence and social anxiety, is readily available.  There are many things you can do to manage incontinence, from behavioral changes, to medications, or even surgery.  And anxiety can be treated in a plethora of ways as well – cognitive (talk) therapy, meditation, and medications can go a long way in helping you deal with the problem.  There’s no need to suffer in silence.  Talk to your doctor about what you’re facing. They will be able to put you on a treatment plan to help you deal with these difficult conditions so that you can get back to living your best life.

Need help finding a specialist to treat your condition? Visit our Specialist Locator Tool to find one in your area.

Should I Use A Probiotic?

Should You Use A Probiotic?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all in the past year or two, you’ve likely noticed an increase in stories about the importance of gut health. The gut, it turns out, is responsible for how your body works –your immunity, your energy levels, your hormone balance, waste elimination, and even how you think can all be affected by an unhealthy gut.  And while there are many factors that affect gut health (stress levels, the amount of shut-eye you get), what you eat plays an important role in ensuring your gut is helping you operate optimally. 

As of late, many health gurus have been touting probiotics as a great way to improve your gut health. And it’s true that the gut needs good probiotics, the “good” bacteria found in some foods and supplements to help it do its job. But how do you get these good bacteria, and are they right for you? 

Most experts agree that a healthy dose of probiotics is a good thing for most people. You can get many probiotics through foods you might be eating already. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi, yogurt, and beverages like kefir and kombucha, are all great options if you want to eat more probiotic foods. You may also want to consider a probiotic supplement if your diet lacks these food types. 

Experts warn to use a bit of caution when initially consuming foods high in probiotics, as they may cause a bit of irritation in your digestive system as your body gets used to them.  Additionally, many probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to do your research on brands and choose a high-quality product.  As always, talk with your doctor before you start taking a probiotic, as they may not be for everyone. Those with an illness that affects the immune system may not be a good fit, as the probiotics may cause the person to get sick.

Want some more info on this subject? Here’s a great guide on taking probiotics from Harvard Health.

Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

We often talk about incontinence as if it has already happened. In most cases, if you’re visiting this website, it probably has. But there are many things that you can do that can prevent incontinence from starting in the first place. Most of these things may also help you manage, or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence once you’ve already gotten it. Read below for some tips to stop incontinence in its tracks.

5 Tips To Prevent Incontinence

Tip #1: Maintain A Healthy Weight

Carrying around extra weight puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing the muscles to weaken and lead to leaks. In addition, folks who are overweight generally put extra pressure on their bladder, which can lead to leakage. Maintain a healthy weight by following a healthy diet and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Bonus: incorporating exercise into your day can strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles, leading to even greater protection from leaks.

Tip #2: Don’t Smoke

Smoking on its own is an ugly habit and harmful to your health in more ways than one. People who smoke can eventually develop a chronic “smokers cough”. This chronic coughing can put a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing it to weaken and lead to incontinence. Smoking also irritates the bladder, causing you to need more frequent trips to the bathroom. And, smoking can lead to bladder cancer. Need help kicking the habit? Read these tips.  

Tip #3: Keep Your Pelvic Floor In Shape

The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that supports the bladder, rectum and the uterus in women, and the bladder, rectum and prostate in men.  These muscles are essential in maintaining control over your bladder and bowel. Keeping the pelvic floor healthy can go a long way in preventing or treating incontinence.  Learn more about the pelvic floor and how you can protect it here. 

Tip #4: See A PT After Childbirth

We just talked about how important the pelvic floor is in maintaining continence. But certain things, like childbirth, can really wreak havoc on the pelvic floor and cause it to weaken. Many women don’t understand the impact that a weakened pelvic floor can have on them, even long after the baby is born.  Seeing a physical therapist specially trained in women’s health soon after childbirth can be very helpful, as they can ensure that you are healing properly and learning how to correctly (and safely) get your pelvic floor back into shape.  If left untreated, a weakened pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence and even pelvic organ prolapse later in life, so this simple step can go a long way in protecting yourself for the future.  Learn more about how a physical therapist can help you here.

Tip #5: Watch Your Diet

This may seem to echo Tip #1, but even if you are at an ideal weight, if you’re eating foods that irritate your bladder (and if you’re susceptible to incontinence) then you may be setting yourself up for leaks.  There are many common bladder irritants (see a list of some of them here) but they can vary from person to person: what irritates one person may not bother another. If you do experience leaks, pay close attention to your diet and take note of foods that may be triggering leaks.

Ask The Expert: How Do I Manage My Incontinence While Traveling?

Ask The Expert: How Do I Manage My Incontinence While Traveling?

Question:  I’m headed across country over the holidays to visit some family. What are your tips for managing incontinence while traveling such a long distance?

Answer:  This is a common concern for people with incontinence. Being in an unfamiliar environment, especially one that may have limited bathrooms or restrictions on when you can use them can create anxiety in anyone who has trouble with bladder control. But follow the two main tips tips and you’ll be on your way to a leak free holiday!

Preparation

As with most things, preparation is everything.  Knowing that you have some backups in place can go a long way in making you feel more comfortable about your trip. Think ahead to your trip and think about what you might need. Are you traveling by car or flying? Each presents it’s own challenges for someone who is incontinent.  If you’re flying, try to get an isle seat so you have easier access to a bathroom. Traveling by car? Plan your route where with some designated bathroom stops built in so you’re never going too long without a break.  Think about the type of traveling you’ll be doing, and plan accordingly.

You also may want to limit your fluids – within reason. Drink enough so that you don’t feel thirsty, but don’t down that big gulp right before you hop in the car or get on a flight. Use some common sense here.

 Packing

This one kind of goes along with preparation, but think about what you use on a daily basis to manage your incontinence and be sure to pack plenty of supplies.  Make sure to bring an extra set of clothes with you, as well as extra absorbent protection or medication if you use it.  You never know when your travel plans might change due to canceled flights or weather and you don’t want to be stuck without these items.  If you’re flying, pack some of these supplies in your carry-on so that you have them with you in the event your flight is delayed, or your luggage gets lost. 

If you’re staying at a loved one’s house, consider if bedding protection is needed. Waterproof pads can be a great thing to bring along and will give you peace of mind at night.   You also may want to bring along any laundry detergent or plastic bags to put soiled garments in, if needed.

By planning ahead and packing accordingly, you’ll be one step ahead of the game, and will have some peace of mind knowing that you’re prepared for whatever your travels may throw at you! 

Happy Holidays!

What Causes Incontinence In Women?

What Causes Incontinence In Women_.jpg

Incontinence is a condition that affects over 25 million men and women in America. It can really happen to anyone, and can be caused by many different things. But it is much more common in women – nearly twice as common actually – and unfortunately has become something that many people (even potentially your doctor) brush off as being a normal part of aging. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why Is Incontinence More Prevalent In Women?

Incontinence can have many root causes.  Being overweight, problems with the prostate in men, and even conditions that cause damage to the nerves, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or even diabetes can all lead to incontinence.  But it’s no secret that women suffer from incontinence more than men. This is in part due to the fact that things like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are unique to women and create extra pressure and complications that can cause incontinence. 

The pressure of carrying a baby for 9 months and the trauma of childbirth to the pelvic floor can weaken the pelvic floor, making it difficult to stay continent.  Additionally the hormonal changes that occur during menopause cause a change in continence.  A decrease in estrogen can cause the vaginal tissues to become less elastic and dry and can lead to incontinence and urinary tract infections.

What Types Of Incontinence Are There 

Did you know that there are actually different types of Incontinence? Depending on what you have, there may be different options available to you.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is the frequent and urgent need to use the bathroom, accompanied by bladder leakage.  You may have a sudden feeling that you have to go to the bathroom right now, or it may be triggered by familiar things, such as arriving home, washing the dishes, etc. This type of condition may also exist without bladder leakage, and is then referred to as Overactive Bladder. 

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence happens when pressure is placed on the bladder and causes bladder leakage. This type of leakage might happen when you’re working out, or even when you sneeze or laugh. Unlike Urge incontinence, stress urinary incontinence is not typically accompanied by the sensation of a sudden urge to urinate. Rather, stress urinary incontinence is caused by a weakened pelvic floor, and/or a weak sphincter muscle.  Stress urinary incontinence often occurs in women (although men can have it too), and typically as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. It’s a condition that can get worse as you get older, since we lose pelvic muscle tone as we age. Luckily, there are many treatment options available, and behavioral modifications, such as learning how to create a healthy pelvic floor, can do wonders for this type of incontinence.

Mixed Incontinence

As the name implies, many women can suffer from both Stress Urinary Incontinence, and Urge Incontinence, although one is typically more severe than others. Treatment options for mixed incontinence are typically the same as the treatments you would use for stress urinary incontinence, or urge incontinence.

What Are My Options?

Luckily, there are many treatment options available for the various types of incontinence women tend to have.  Below are just a few treatment options available.

Behavioral Modifications.

Often, simple changes to our lifestyle, including changes to our diet and exercise regimen, can ease a lot of the symptoms of incontinence in women.  Learning the foods and drinks that irritate the bladder, and knowing how to strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles can do a great deal to help reduce or even eliminate symptoms.

 Absorbents

Absorbent products come in all shapes and sizes and are a great option for those who need some extra protection. Read our guide to finding the right absorbent product for you.

 Medications

There are many types of medications available that can sooth an irritable bladder. These medications typically work by relaxing the muscles around the bladder, or stopping the signal to your bladder that you need to go right now!

Procedures

If medications and behavioral modification don’t work for you, there are several options that you may want to try before you think about surgery. Many women have seen success with botox injections into their bladder (it’s not just for wrinkles!), and different forms of neuromodulation, small pulses that stimulate the nerves involved in controlling the bladder.  Learn more about these options here.

Surgery

Finally surgery can be a good option for those who have tried other treatments without success. There are several types of surgical procedures, including urinary diversion, sling procedures, and augmentation cystoplasty, that can help with incontinence in women.

It’s important to note that no treatment is 100% effective all the type. Talk with your doctor about what you can expect with each treatment, as well as the pros and cons associated with them.

Urinary incontinence can have a big impact on a woman’s life and it’s important to get it treated.  Too many women live with symptoms of urinary incontinence, thinking it’s just a normal part of aging. But there are many treatments available and it can make life so much more enjoyable when you’re not looking for a bathroom or worried about having an accident. 

If you live with urinary incontinence, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about treatment options.  

November Is National Bladder Health Awareness Month!

Each year, NAFC takes part in National Bladder Health Awareness Month. It’s a time to speak out about bladder health conditions, such as incontinence, and is a chance for us to urge everyone to take notice of their bladder health and do something to improve it.  Over 25 million Americans live with incontinence each day, but it’s a condition that too often get’s swept under the rug and left out of pertinent doctor/patient discussions due to embarrassment or acceptance. 

The truth is, this is a hard subject for most. Let’s face it; incontinence is not something most people want to talk about around the dinner table. In fact, most women wait at least 7 years before even speaking with a doctor about incontinence. 

People hide incontinence from their friends, family and even their significant other.  Incontinence limits people’s lives and how they interact with each other – fear of having an accident takes precedent over time with friends, family and even work.  It’s a taboo subject, but we believe we can change that. And you can help.

This month, take charge of your bladder health and incontinence by taking some actionable steps to manage your condition.

Start Managing Your Condition

Start by downloading our Getting Started Guide, a step-by-step manual designed to help you start managing incontinence even before visiting a doctor.   

Help Raise Awareness Within Your Immediate Circle Of Friends

If we all started speaking up a little more about incontinence, it wouldn’t be such a taboo issue.  Do your part to raise awareness of bladder health and incontinence by clicking the share links on each image and sharing these facts on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

“Visit nafc.org to learn management tips and tricks on how to have a happy, healthy bladder!

Visit NAFC.org To Learn More About How To Have A Happy Healthy Bladder! #BHealth

Learn the steps to take to manage your incontinence symptoms at nafc.org.

Exercise is good for your body, and your bladder. Learn more about how to improve incontinence symptoms with diet and exercise at nafc.org.

Exercise is good for your body, and your bladder. Learn more about how to improve incontinence symptoms with diet and exercise at nafc.org. #BHealth

Incontinence can be hard to deal with. But we can help. Learn more at nafc.org.

Need some help managing your incontinence, but don't know where to turn? Visit nafc.org to find a specialist in your area! #BHealth

Need some help managing your incontinence, but don't know where to turn? Visit nafc.org to find a specialist in your area! #BHealth

Many foods can irritate the bladder, including caffeine. Learn about other bladder irritants at nafc.org.

Learn the steps to take to manage your incontinence symptoms at nafc.org. #BHealth

Up To 45% Of Women Have Incontinence. And while it might be common, it's not normal. Learn more and get help at nafc.org.

Incontinence can be hard to deal with. But we can help. Learn more at nafc.org. #BHealth

Even when you have incontinence, it's important to stay hydrated. Learn more bladder health tips at nafc.org.

Many foods can irritate the bladder, including caffeine. Learn about other bladder irritants at nafc.org. #BHealth

Did you know that over 33 million Americans have Overactive Bladder? Learn more about it and how to treat it at nafc.org.

Up To 45% Of Women Have Incontinence. And while it might be common, it's not normal. Learn more and get help at nafc.org. #BHealth
Even when you have incontinence, it's important to stay hydrated. Learn more bladder health tips at nafc.org. #BHealth
Did you know that over 33 million Americans have Overactive Bladder? Learn more about it and how to treat it at nafc.org. #BHealth

Follow Along With Us This Month 

We’re shining a spotlight on Overactive Bladder and will be rolling out a new series of videos on the many ways to treat OAB.  Check in with us here on the BHealth Blog throughout the month to watch the videos and learn about management options for this widespread condition.

 

Make A Donation To NAFC

NAFC has served the public for over 25 years as a non-profit dedicated to educating, empowering, and supporting people living with bladder and bowel conditions.  Help us continue this mission by making a donation to NAFC – every cent counts and even a little can help us continue providing services to the over 1 million people who visit our site each year.   

Your contribution matters and can make a real difference.  It’s how we’re able to continue creating free courses for your local communities. It’s how we’re able to advocate for patients in home and at assisted care facilities for quality incontinence supplies. It’s how we provide thousands of free educational brochures to patients looking for help. And it’s how we are able to increase the awareness of the impact of incontinence on those it touches.

Please consider a donation to NAFC this November in honor of Bladder Health Awarenss Month.

Thanks for all you do to support us! Now get out there, start taking some action, and make some noise! 

5 Home Remedies For UTIs

5 Home Remedies For Urinary Tract Infections - Image Of Cranberries

We get it. UTI’s are annoying and frustrating, especially if they’re recurrent.  The last thing you want to do is take time out of your busy day to visit your doctor for an antibiotic.

While antibiotics are the fastest and most recommended way to treat a UTI, there are some home remedies you can try to treat the condition. 

Below are 5 things you can try to treat a UTI on your own.

  1. Drink Lots Of Water. Drinking lots of water, and emptying your bladder when you need to, will help you flush harmful bacteria from your system. You may be hesitant to drink water due to the burning sensation you may have when peeing, but trust us on this – getting in your recommended 8 glasses a day will do you a world of good.

  2. Try Unsweetened Cranberry Juice. While the research is a bit unclear, cranberries have been used as prevention of UTI for generations. Studies have shown that cranberries actually make it harder for the bacteria that causes UTIs to stick to the urinary tract walls. So, while not really a remedy, if you frequently get UTIs, it might be worth drinking a couple of glasses of unsweetened cranberry juice, or snacking on the actual fruit (whole or dried).

  3. Don’t “Hold It”. We all get busy, but holding off going to the bathroom gives any bacteria that may already be in your bladder the chance to grow and multiply, potentially resulting in an infection (or keeping one that you already have alive and well). Drink lots of water and when you have to go, go.

  4. Try taking a probiotic. Introducing a probiotic to your system may help to replenish naturally occurring bacteria that live in the vagina, which can help fight off the bad bacteria that causes a UTI and restore the balance.

  5. Eat garlic. It turns out that garlic doesn’t just ward off vampires. A recent study showed that garlic extract may be effective in reducing the bacteria that causes UTIs.

Have you tried any of the above, or other home treatments to treat your UTI? Tell us about them in the comments below!

How To Get Rid Of A Bladder Infection Fast

How to get rid of a bladder infection fast.

If you’re reading this post, you’re likely in the midst of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) and are in some serious need of relief now!  We get it – UTIs are no fun – they can be really painful, leave you rushing to the bathroom nonstop, and can even lead to leaks. So it’s no wonder you’re researching quick cures for bladder infections. 

The best thing you can do for fast relief from a bladder infection is to is see your doctor, and get an antibiotic. 

Antibiotics kill the bacteria that causes bladder infections and are the best way to stop a UTI in its tracks. They typically work pretty quickly, although be sure to take your medication for the full course, even if you’re feeling better sooner than that.  So, if you’ve been experiencing a UTI for more than a couple of days, make an appointment with your doctor now to get treatment.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do for a little relief.

  1. Drink water – lots of it. Getting in the recommended eight glasses of water per day can help flush the bacteria out of your bladder and make you heal a bit faster.  Limit your caffeine or sugary drinks though, as they can irritate you bladder.
  2. When you gotta go, go. Holding your urine when you really have to go gives time for the bacteria in your system to multiply, making it harder to get rid of. 
  3. Talk to your doctor about over the counter pain relievers. While these won’t cure a UTI, they may help give you a bit of relief while you’re waiting for the antibiotics to treat the infection. 
  4. Rest.  Getting enough rest gives your body the energy it needs to be able to fight off an infection. Make sure you are getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  5. Wear loose clothing.  Not only will this be more comfortable for you during this time, but it might also prevent bacteria growth. Bacteria grow the quickest in moist, warm environments so ditch the skinny jeans for a week or so and opt for loose trousers, skirts or dresses. 

Follow the steps above for quick relief from UTIs.  

7 Tell-Tale Signs You Have A Bladder Infection

7 Signs You Have A Bladder Infection Or UTI.

If you’ve suffered from bladder infections in the past, you likely know the symptoms when you spot them. After all, a UTI is an unpleasant experience and not easily forgettable. But if you’re experiencing one for the first time, it may be hard to know what your symptoms mean. 

Below are 7 signs that you may be suffering from a bladder infection or a UTI.  Of course, any of these may occur on their own, but a UTI is more likely when you experience a combination of any of the below. 

7 Signs That You May Be Suffering From A Bladder Infection Or UTI

A painful burning sensation.

A strong burning sensation when you’re urinating is one of the most common signs of having a bladder infection. It happens when bacteria, (most often E. coli) gets into your urethra.

Needing to go. A lot. 

Many women with UTIs experience the need to go to the bathroom often – even if they just went.  These bathroom trips typically don’t produce much urine.

An overwhelming need to urinate fast. 

If you’re rushing to the bathroom often, with the intense need to urinate NOW, it may be a sign of a urinary tract infection.  This typically is accompanied by painful urination.

Abdominal pain.

Pain, pressure or tenderness in your abdomen and pubic area is common with a bladder infection.  If the pain moves to your lower back, it could be an indication that the infection has spread to your kidneys. 

Cloudy, or Bloody Urine.

Cloudy colored urine is common in urinary tract infections, and if you see blood in the urine, it may be a sign of a leakage of red-blood cells from your kidneys. Both are signs of a UTI or bladder infection.

Strong Smelling Urine. 

This may be one of the first indications that you’re developing a UTI.  You can thank the bacteria that are causing the infection for producing a strong ammonia smell, or a sweet or off-smelling urine. 

Fever.  

While less common, and certainly not an indicator on it’s own, if you’ve developed any of the above symptoms, and also have a fever, it’s time to get checked out by a doctor (if you haven’t already).  A UTI is considered more serious the farther up the urinary tract is goes, and fever (and sometimes chills, or even nausea or vomiting) can be an indication that it’s reached the kidneys.  If this happens, call your doctor right away.

If you’re experiencing any combination of the symptoms above, see a doctor right away. Bladder infections are often treated with antibiotics and the sooner you start them, the sooner you’ll find relief. 

 

 

 

Ask The Expert: Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?

NAFC Ask The Expert Logo

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:  I’ve been feeling a really burning sensation when I pee the past few days. What’s happening?

Answer: While a burning sensation can be caused by many things such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or a kidney infection you likely have a UTI, or a bladder infection.  UTIs are very common, and are typically caused by bacteria that get into the urinary tract through the urethra.

UTI’s are more common in women, but can occur in men too. Symptoms may include not only a burning sensation, but frequent urges to urinate, abdominal pain, fever, and cloudy, bloody, or strong-smelling urine.

UTIs are generally treated with antibiotics, which can ease symptoms pretty quickly, although prevention is key.  Be sure to always drink plenty of water, eat a healthy diet, don’t hold in your urine, urinate after sex, and keep your vaginal area clean.  Make sure you’re wiping from front to back to avoid introducing new bacteria into your vaginal area. 

It also helps to keep stress to a minimum – while stress doesn’t necessarily cause a UTI, when you’re highly stressed, your immune system doesn’t work quite as well and can lead to you developing illnesses or infections.  Practice some stress-reducing activities, such as exercise or meditation.

UTIs can be painful and inconvenient, but with quick attention, they don’t have to keep you down.  Talk to your doctor for treatment, and then practice some of the steps above to prevent them from happening in the future. 

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!

The High Cost Of Caregiving

The High Cost Of Caregiving

Marilyn remembers the day that she toured 3 nursing homes for her elderly mother. “Each one was very functional, but they seemed cold and lonely, institutional”, she said. “At the end of the day I just cried. I couldn’t put my mother in one of those places. And the cost was outrageous. Eventually, I decided to take her in myself.”

What Marilyn didn’t realize was even having her mother home with her would end up being a huge financial strain too.  The extra help she needed from regular nursing aid visits, the supplies – they all added up. “It really put a financial strain on my family”, said Marilyn.

Most family caregivers are unaware of the high cost of caring for a loved one at home. Calculating these costs in advance can help you know more of what to expect, and can help you evaluate if it’s truly something that will work for you.

Out Of Pocket Costs

Out of pocket costs for caregiving can be significant.  A study done by AARP estimated that on average, family caregivers spend roughly $7,000 per year on out of pocket costs related to caregiving. (1)  And if you’re caring for a loved one who lives far away, or one who lives with you in your home, expect to pay more. ($11,923 or $8,616, respectively).  (1)

This can be a huge financial strain on caregivers and their families. The AARP study estimated that caregivers spend on average nearly 20% of their income on caregiving activities. (1) And it’s not all just for medical care – household expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, or home modifications, account for about 41% of spending.  (1) Medical expenses, such as assisted living, insurance, or other medical costs average around 25% of spending. (1)

Lost Wages And Career Advancement

Care for a family member yourself may feel like the best thing to do, but it will cost you in more ways than just out of pocket expenses. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, women who care for their parents lose an estimated $324,044 in lost wages, benefits, and retirement funds. (Men lose $283,716.) (2)

And caregiving can negatively affect work performance and career advancement: 61% of caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving, such as cutting back work hours, taking a leave of absence, taking a demotion, receiving a warning about performance or attendance, arriving late, or even giving up working entirely. (2)

Reduced Savings

Unfortunately, caregiving for a loved one typically comes at a time when the caregivers also need to plan and save for their own retirement. The decision to stop working in order to care for a loved one can jeopardize their future financial security. (3) This is dangerous, since it’s estimated that a couple can expect to pay an average of $280,000 in health care costs alone throughout their retirement. (4)

Plan and Prepare

The best thing to do? Start planning early.  Set up a savings account now for yourself, so that you can be better prepared for the future. Next, talk with your loved one about what they’ve already done to plan for their own long-term care. You may qualify for tax breaks, or credits, or you may be able to utilize an employer FSA (flex spending account) to help cut some costs.

Talk with your employer about your situation too. More companies are starting to offer benefits to caregivers, such as helping to pay for backup care, or advisory services to help you navigate the many aspects of caregiving.

Even if your company doesn’t offer these formally, it’s still a good idea to have a discussion with them about your situation. There may be ways for you to work more flexible hours in order to manage the demands of caregiving, or even take some paid leave to assist with your loved one’s needs. Some big-name companies, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Deloitte all offer different amounts of paid leave programs to care for loved ones.

In the end, making the decision to become a caregiver is a personal choice. The rewards of caregiving can be great, but it can also come at a high personal sacrifice – both financially and emotionally, for you and your family members.  Do your research, and be sure to have an honest and open discussion with everyone involved.


References:

1. Rainville, Chuck, Laura Skufca, and Laura Mehegan. Family Caregiving and Out-of-Pocket Costs: 2016 Report. Washington, DC: AARP Research, November 2016. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00138.001

2. https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-work-and-caregiving

3. The MetLife Market Survey of Long-term Care Costs, 2011:  https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/livable-communities/old-learn/health/the-metlife-market-survey-of-nursing-home-assisted-living-adult-day-services-and-home-care-costs-2011-aarp.pdf

4. The Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, 2018. https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/personal-finance/plan-for-rising-health-care-costs

Ask The Expert: Should I Get Vaccinations If I Have IBD?

Should I Get Vaccinations If I Have IBD?

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: I suffer from IBD and have always thought that vaccines would place me at a greater risk for developing an infection due to an already compromised auto-immune system. Is this true?

Answer: Many patients with IBD believe that they should not get certain vaccinations because they are concerned about side effects, and think that the vaccines won’t benefit them. But the truth is, IBD already is placing patients at a greater risk for developing vaccine-preventable illnesses. This is even more true if you are on an immunosuppressive therapy. This is why it’s important to talk to your doctor about vaccinations to ensure that you’re getting the protection you need. 

Guidelines recommend vaccinating prior to starting immunosuppressive therapy, since the efficacy of the vaccine is higher in non-immunosuppressed IBD patients.

And while it is generally recommended that all adults with IBD receive non-live vaccines (in line with the national guidelines), certain live vaccines may not be recommended for some patients.

Talk to your doctor about the vaccines you need and determine a plan for getting up to date.

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!

What Is IBS?

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

We’ve all experienced bowel trouble at one time or another. But for some people, cramping, excess gas and loose stools (or not so loose stools) are all too common of an occurrence. If you suffer from these symptoms, you may have a condition called IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder and is not the same as IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), which is a more serious condition and can cause more severe complications.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF IBS

  • Abdominal pain or cramping (this goes away once you have a bowel movement)
  • Excess gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea, or constipation (sometimes people with IBS experience both)
  • Changes in stool consistency or frequency
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Loss of appetite

CAUSES AND TRIGGERS OF IBS

It’s not completely clear what causes IBS, sometimes referred to as spastic colon, but many experts believe that people with IBS simply have a more sensitive colon.  Things such as changes in your gut bacteria could have a greater effect on you than on others. Some experts also believe that the condition is a result of problems with brain-gut interaction, or how your brain and gut communicate with each other.

And, just like other conditions, such as overactive bladder, IBS has it’s own triggers.

While everyone’s trigger might be different, there are some common ones:

FOODS IN YOUR DIET:

Depending on your symptoms, different foods may be causing you problems. If you suffer from constipation, some foods, such as breads and cereals, processed foods, high-protein diets, and dairy products (especially cheese) can contribute to you symptoms. If you’re making more trips to the bathroom because of diarrhea, things like too much fiber, large meals, fried and fatty foods, and dairy products can be a problem. And for either symptom, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, or carbonated beverages.

HOW YOU EAT

It’s not just what you’re putting in your body that can have an effect on you, but how you eat can also impact your IBS symptoms. Eating too fast, or with distractions (like eating while you work or drive) can increase symptoms of IBS. Make sure to eat slowly and without disruptions.

STRESS AND ANXIETY

Stressful life events, or even certain mental conditions such as depression, can bring on symptoms of IBS.  Learning ways to stay calm and manage stress can be helpful tools in managing IBS symptoms.

HORMONAL CHANGES:           

Many women with IBS often experience an increase in symptoms around their menstrual cycle (in fact, 70% of people who live with IBS are women). While you can’t prevent your menstrual cycle from happening, it may help to find ways to better manage your symptoms. Birth control pills can sometimes lessen the effects of your periods, which may also help with IBS symptoms.

NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE:

Simply put, exercise can keep things moving if you’re suffering from bouts of constipation. And, as a widely known way of banishing stress, it’s helpful in keeping you calm and stress free, which can eliminate another trigger of IBS symptoms.

RISK FACTORS FOR IBS

IBS is a common disorder affecting up to 20% of US adults. IBS is not an old person’s condition either – it strikes young, often occurring in people before turning 35). The majority of sufferers are female (70%).  While not proven to be hereditary, people who have had family members with IBS may be at a greater risk for developing the condition themselves. 

DIAGNOSING IBS

Diagnosis for IBS is typically done at a doctor’s office through blood tests. If you suspect you have IBS, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms, and get tested for a diagnosis.

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR IBS

COUNSELING

If you suffer from a lot of anxiety, or have experienced a traumatic event, speaking with a counselor can help you work through some of those feelings and may help ease your IBS symptoms in the process.

DIET CHANGES

Making some changes to what you eat can have a big effect for some people experiencing IBS symptoms. Try eliminating some of the problem foods listed above to see if you experience any relief.

BIOFEEDBACK

This technique involves training your body to have more control over your bowels, and has been proven an effective tool in managing IBS symptoms. Learn more about biofeedback here.

MINDFULNESS

Practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to result in a reduction of IBS symptoms. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and has been thought to reduce stress and calm the mind. 

MEDICATIONS

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help you manage. Fiber supplements or anti-diarrheal medications can help manage constipation and diarrhea, and antidepressant medications may help you manage symptoms of stress and anxiety, which are common triggers of IBS. There are also medications specifically approved by the FDA to treat certain symptoms of IBS.

IBS can be a very painful and debilitating condition for some people, and while it is not life-threatening, it is a long term condition that should be treated. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and work with him or her to find a treatment option that works for you.

NAFC's Many Resources For Managing Overactive Bladder

NAFCs Resources For Managing Overactive Bladder

Do you have overactive bladder? If you find yourself often running to the bathroom, you might be suffering from OAB – the urgent and frequent need to urinate. And, that urgent need may be difficult to stop, causing you to experience bladder leaks. Overactive bladder affects over 35 million people in the US, and can be a big disrupter to your everyday life. You may be struggling with this condition and wondering how to stop overactive bladder. But knowing more about the condition, what causes it, and how you can manage and treat it can make a big difference.

NAFC has tons of resources for patients living with overactive bladder. Check out the two listed below:

OAB RESOURCE CENTER

The NAFC OAB Resource Center has videos about Overactive Bladder, first hand patient stories, and articles and brochures to help you understand the condition and what to do about it. It also has a collection of downloadable guides that can help you manage your condition. Download our OAB screener to evaluate the severity of your condition, get a tips sheet on bladder retraining, try the NAFC Bladder Diary, and get our tips for how to talk to your doctor about oab.

OAB TREATMENT TRACKER

Do you feel like you’ve tried everything to treat your Overactive Bladder? NAFC created the OAB Treatment Tracker to help you determine your next best step in treatment options. Answer a few questions about your symptoms, the treatments you have tried in the past, and new treatments you may be interested in and receive a customized email outlining treatment options that may be a good fit for you. Best of all, you can print out the email and bring it with you to your doctor’s appointment to help facilitate a discussion about treatment options for OAB.

NAFC's Learning Library Can Help You Better Understand Your Bladder And Bowel Condition

Discover videos and tips to help you learn how to manage incontinence.

Ever tried to learn about a complicated condition? It may seem like bladder and bowel problems are simple, but sometimes you need a little help understanding how things work, how to manage certain conditions, and the steps to take to avoid them.

That’s where the NAFC Learning Library comes in. Need some help knowing how to manage Overactive Bladder? We’ve got it. Want some tips on how to prevent bedwetting? Check out our video on that. Want to better understand nocturia, or learn how to insert a catheter? Want to learn more about kegels, or how to care for a pessary? We can help!

We’ve got the videos you need to help you along in your journey toward a Life Without Leaks.  Our collection of educational videos is growing all the time. Check out the NAFC Learning Library to better understand your condition and find ways to treat it.

How To Stop Waking Up At Night To Pee

How to stop waking up at night 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. 

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