Urinary Incontinence After Prostate Surgery: Everything You Need To Know

Incontinence After Prostate Surgery

Undergoing a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate due to cancer) can be difficult. And for many men, finding that they are incontinent post surgery may come as a shock.

But rest assured that there are many treatments available to manage incontinence treatment after surgery. Read below for some of the most common questions we receive about incontinence after prostate surgery.  

What causes incontinence after prostate surgery?

Urinary incontinence is a potential side effect of prostate removal surgery. The prostate surrounds the bladder. Removing it, or using radiation to treat it, can sometimes cause damage to the nerves and muscles of the bladder, urethra, and or sphincter, which controls the passage of urine from the bladder. This can result in urinary incontinence.

Is Incontinence Normal After Prostate Surgery?

Approximately 6-8 percent of men who have had surgery to remove their prostate will develop urinary incontinence. (Cleveland Clinic) The good news is that most men will eventually regain bladder control with time.

How bad is incontinence after prostate surgery?

The degree of incontinence varies from person to person and can be anywhere from full on incontinence, to light dribbles. And, the amount you leak right after surgery will likely lessen as you continue with your recovery and any additional bladder or pelvic floor treatments you may be doing.  

How long will I have incontinence after prostate surgery?

Most men who experience a loss of bladder control have symptoms for 6 months to 1 year post prostate surgery. However, a small percentage of men may continue to experience problems past the one year mark.

Does incontinence go away on its own after prostate surgery?

For most men, urinary incontinence will go away within about 1 year. Performing pelvic floor exercises, also known as kegels, which help strengthen the muscles that are located in the base of the pelvis between the pubic bone may help to speed the recovery process along.

Does incontinence happen if I treat prostate cancer with radiation?

Some men need radiation therapy after prostate removal. During radiation therapy, some of the normal tissues around the urinary sphincter, urethra and bladder may be exposed, causing irritation to occur post therapy, leading to incontinence. This typically subsides within a few months after radiation therapy, however if it persists, additional treatments described below may be helpful.

How can I improve incontinence after prostate surgery?

Want to stop incontinence after prostate surgery? Kegels may be your answer! As mentioned above, kegels are a common treatment option for incontinence after prostate surgery.  Among other things, the pelvic floor muscles help control bladder and bowel function and, like other muscles of the body, if they get weak they are no longer able to do their job effectively.  To improve muscle function, kegels must be done regularly, every day. The good news is that they can be performed pretty much anywhere, anytime, and in a variety of positions (sitting, standing, lying down, etc.). For a complete guide on performing a men’s kegel, click here.)

Biofeedback can sometimes be used to determine if you are performing a kegel properly. And, electrical stimulation may also be used to help re-teach the muscles to contract.

What treatments are available to me if my incontinence doesn’t go away after a year?

While kegels and behavioral therapy work well for most men with mild to moderate leaking, they may not be completely effective for some. Luckily, there are still some options for treating bladder leakage after prostate surgery.

Another surgery is sometimes needed when bladder leaks persist for more than a year after surgery. This may consist of having a urethral sling procedure, or an artificial urinary sphincter.

With a urethral sling procedure, a synthetic mesh tape is implanted to support the urethra. Up to an 80% improvement has been seen with this procedure and some men stop leaking completely.

An artificial urinary sphincter is used in patients who have more severe urinary incontinence that is not improving, or for those patients who may have had a lot of damage to the sphincter muscle after prostate surgery. An artificial urinary sphincter is a mechanical ring that helps close the exit from the bladder.

As will all surgeries, these come with pros and cons and potential complications. Be sure to discuss these options with your doctor. 

Incontinence after prostate surgery forums.

Going through prostate cancer and having your prostate removed can be a physically and emotionally trying time in life. Many men are unprepared for the extent to which they may experience bladder leaks after prostate removal and it can be disheartening to have undergone surgery only to experience a loss of bladder control for a period afterward.

Fortunately, this is usually resolved within a year. During that time though, you may find that you need someone to talk to about your experience. Finding a forum or message board filled with people who can relate can help ease some of the tensions that you may be going through. 

The NAFC message boards are a great way to connect with others who may also be experiencing incontinence, due to prostate surgery or other conditions.  They’re free to join and the forum is anonymous so you can speak freely without the worry of feeling embarrassed or ashamed. NAFC is proud of this amazing group of individuals who visit the forums and courageously share their stories, offer support, and provide inspiration to each other. We encourage you to check it out!

Patient Perspective:  How Do I Tell My Wife I Have Incontinence? 

How Do I Tell My Wife I Have Incontinence?

I’ve been incontinent for 1 year now, and my wife has no idea. (At least I don’t think she does).  You see I’ve gone to great lengths to hide it from her.  It’s not like I leak all the time, but a few times a week I find myself unable to make it to the bathroom in time and I have an accident. It horrifies me, since this has never happened before.

My doctor tells me I have an enlarged prostate. This, my wife knows. I’m sure she also knows some of the symptoms, since she’s the type to do research on this stuff. But I haven’t told her I suffer from bladder leaks.

I keep spare underwear hidden in the car.  I limit my fluids when I know we’re going to be out. I always scout out the nearest restroom in case I need to make a beeline to it. I even decline certain events if I think there’s a risk I may have an accident. I feel like I’m living as a secret agent with this condition – always trying to stay 1 step ahead. 

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t told her. Talking with your spouse about something that embarrasses you is never easy. But for me, this is devastating. I’ve always been her “tough guy”. The one who fixes up old cars, goes bowling with the guys on Tuesdays, can handle pretty much anything anyone throws my way. But this is different. It’s made me feel like less of a man. And I feel embarrassed that I can’t control something as simple as my bladder.

I know it’s more complicated than that, but I just can’t help thinking “What will she think of me?”  “Will she still find me attractive?” “Will she think less of me?”

We’ve always been so spontaneous. Running out at a moments notice to meet up with friends at a pub. Jumping on those last minute flights to somewhere tropical. Going to shows and concerts and ball games. I still want to be that person. That guy who does all the fun stuff. But these bladder leaks are getting in the way of that.

I know we’re getting older, but I still just want her to look at me like she always has, and I’m so scared this will change that.

I’m planning to tell her soon. I know that it’s probably better to just get it out there, Knowing my wife, she’ll probably jump right in and try to help. She’s awesome like that.

And, I’m sure her knowing will probably be good for me. We’ll find ways to deal with it together. We’ll find solutions for this condition that I know are out there but I’ve been too stubborn or embarrassed to seek out. It will be better. She will help me make it better.

But the thought of having that conversation with her is still scary as hell.  The telling is really the hardest part of all of this. Wish me luck.

Anonymous

What Causes Incontinence In Men

What Causes Incontinence In Men?

Bladder leaks can happen to anyone at any age. While we’ve been conditioned to think that mostly older women are affected by the condition, many men suffer from incontinence too. 

There are many conditions that can lead to urinary incontinence in men. But luckily there are also many ways to treat it. Keep reading to learn some of the reasons men develop leaky bladders, how it’s diagnosed, and ways to treat it.

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the accidental leakage of urine. Many people wrongly assume that developing urinary incontinence is something that just happens as you age. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It can develop in anyone, at anytime. And there are several possible causes for it.

First, let’s start off with learning a bit about how everything works.

The urinary system is composed of two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, and a urethra. The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and continuously produce urine. The muscular, tube-like ureters move urine from the kidneys to the bladder, where it is stored until it flows out of the body through the urethra. A circular muscle, called the sphincter, controls the activity of the urethra and keeps urine in the bladder until it is time to urinate.

Normally, the bladder wall is relaxed while storing (or filling with) urine and the urethra is closed off by the sphincter. Your pelvic floor muscles also help keep the bladder outlet closed by supporting the urethra.

When the bladder is working correctly, the bladder sends signals to the brain to let you know how full it is, and to the sphincter to tell it to stay closed and prevent the bladder muscle from contracting.

When the bladder is full, you allow the pelvic floor as well as muscles at the outlet of the bladder to relax and open up. As this is happening, the muscle in the wall of the bladder (detrusor muscle) begins to contract and continues contracting until the bladder is completely emptied.

This process of bladder filling and emptying is obviously very complex. When any part of the urinary system or pelvic floor does not work correctly, incontinence can result.

If any of these signals don’t happen or get confused, bladder leakage can happen. 

What causes urinary incontinence in men?

Many things may contribute to bladder leakage in men.

The most common reason men experience incontinence is due to problems with the prostate. As men age, the prostate gland grows. It is estimated that 17 million men have an enlarged prostate, or symptoms of Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH). The prostate gland wraps around the urethra (the bladder outlet), so an enlarged prostate can constrict or block the urethra. This is known as prostatic obstruction.

Prostatic obstruction can compromise the bladder’s ability to effectively empty, causing chronic retention of urine. This contributes to urgency and frequency because the bladder still signals that it needs emptying. If left untreated, the bladder can become distended, worsening its ability to contract and completely empty. It is possible to have prostatic obstruction even if the prostate is not enlarged.

Men may also experience Overactive Bladder (OAB) which is characterized by a sudden and urgent need to urinate, and needing to urinate frequently. This becomes urgency urinary incontinence when you are not able to reach the bathroom before losing control of the bladder.

Additionally, conditions that cause damage to the nerves, such as diabetes can cause bladder problems since it disrupts the normal signaling from the bladder to the brain to help control bladder function. Other conditions, such as stroke, can also cause incontinence, and even some medications or certain foods or drinks can contribute to urinary incontinence. 

How is urinary incontinence in men diagnosed? 

Before your appointment, take note of your symptoms so that you can relay them to your doctor. Symptoms of incontinence to look for are:

  • Diminished or interrupted urine flow

  • An urgent or sudden need to urinate

  • Increased frequency of urination

  • Inability to empty the bladder completely when urinating

  • Difficulty starting the urine flow, even when the bladder feels full

  • Getting up more than once per night to urinate (nocturia)

  • Accidental urine leakage

Talking to your doctor is the first step toward treatment.  At your appointment, your doctor will likely ask for your medical history, give you a complete physical examination, and provide a urine specimen. You may be asked to keep a bladder diary to record your symptoms.  Other tests to examine the bladder and/or prostate may also be necessary. 

Once your doctor has diagnosed your bladder condition, you can work together to decide on a treatment option that best fits your needs and works with your lifestyle.

What treatment options exist for men with urinary incontinence?

The good news is that there are lots of treatments available to men with urinary incontinence.  Your treatment path will depend on what is causing your condition.

For men with an enlarged prostate, your doctor may recommend medications to reduce symptoms and reduce the size of the prostate. Minimally invasive treatments, or even surgery is sometimes done to increase the flow of urine.  

Men with OAB may also be prescribed medications to help calm the bladder.  In cases where medication is not an option or isn’t working, minimally invasive treatments such as InterStim may be used.  This is an implanted device that helps to establish more normal function of the bladder by gently stimulating the sacral nerve. Behavioral modifications can also help with OAB. Changes in your diet, bladder training, and pelvic floor muscles are often used to help control urinary incontinence caused by OAB.

Many men also experience incontinence after prostate cancer surgery. When the prostate gland is removed, damage may occur to nerves, tissues, and the sphincter muscle that can impair the bladder's ability to store urine without leaking. This may last for just a few months during recovery, or longer. Depending on the severity of incontinence, there are several options that may help.  

Performing pelvic muscle exercises (kegels) are an important part of treating incontinence in men. Kegel exercise done before and after surgery can help to recover bladder control and are important for maintaining erectile function.  When done correctly, kegels can strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, causing fewer leaks, and improving bladder and bowel control. (Click here for a men’s guide to doing kegels.)

 If additional help is needed, other surgical options may be available. Your doctor can talk about the pros and cons of the various surgical options available.

Seeking Help Is The First Step

If you’re struggling with urinary incontinence, the most important thing to remember is that help is available. It’s not just a women’s issue – MANY men live with this condition too and there is no need to suffer in silence.  Talk with your doctor to learn the root cause of your bladder leakage and to find a treatment that works for you. 

Patient Perspective: My Husband Doesn't Understand My Incontinence

Patient Perspective: My Husband Doesn’t Understand My Incontinence

Are you like me? Do you live with someone who is unable to deal with your incontinence? I am sad to say that I do, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I’m starting to find ways to help my husband accept my problem. 

We’ve always been a carefree couple. Even in our early days we’d drop everything at a moments notice if a cheap flight to an exotic destination came along. We’d host impromptu parties with friends, go on vacations with other couples, and push ourselves to try new things like running marathons or participating in intense group workouts or races. 

And while we are still very much in love, and still like to be adventurous, in recent years, I’ve held back, because I suffer from incontinence.

I started noticing leaks when I was in my early 40’s. At first they were small, and didn’t happen very often. I brushed them off and still tried to do all the things we always had, without feeling the need to share this new development with my husband.

But after a while, the small leaks turned to bigger ones, and they were happening more and more frequently. I found that I couldn’t go out of the house without packing a spare change of clothes. I no longer wanted to just hop on a 5-hour flight to somewhere exotic where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find a bathroom, or worse, have an accident on the plane.  

I had to tell my husband what was happening, and while he was supportive, he didn’t understand why I couldn’t “just hold it”.  He started to grow resentful as I declined more and more invitations, and we soon began to have fights about it, often leaving me feeling ashamed and embarrassed because of my condition.

I decided that I needed to take matters into my own hands and help my husband understand. We started doing research together online and learned more about my condition, what causes it, and ways to better manage it.  And, I’ve talked with my doctor about ways to treat my incontinence so that I can do more of the things I love. 

It hasn’t been easy, and my husband still sometimes gets frustrated at my hesitation to do some of the things we used to, but educating ourselves, together, was one of the best things we could have done to get back on track. It’s helped us both learn that this is not my fault, and that there are ways to overcome it. And, despite his frustration, I’m glad my husband is pushing me to get treatment instead of hiding behind my condition. I’m confident that with my doctor’s help, I’ll soon be able to get back to many of the things that we used to enjoy, and can’t wait to feel like my old self again. 

Sylvie R., Rockport, Massachusetts

Is Stress Contributing To Your Incontinence?

Is Stress Contributing To Your Incontinence?

As you may already know, incontinence is really common. Approximately 15 million American women deal with urinary incontinence. And about 24% of women over 40 have experienced fecal incontinence at least once in the past year, too.

But, just because incontinence is common doesn’t take away the embarrassment. The sheer thought of an unexpected leak is stressful. Plus, research shows that stress and incontinence are closely intertwined. But do stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues cause incontinence? Or does incontinence negatively impact our mental health? With 1 in 5 American adults, or 43.8 million people, experiencing mental health issues every year, you just might want to stick around to find out.

The Impact of Stress on the Bladder

Have you ever said “I’m so scared, I might pee myself?” Well, it turns out there’s real science behind that expression. When you’re really afraid or anxious, your body goes into fight or flight mode. And it’s thought that the adrenaline pumping through you triggers your need to pee.

So, there’s definitely a link between what’s going on in your brain (fear, anxiety, etc) and what might be coming out of your bladder. Anxiety and stress can cause you to urinate more frequently, too.

The Impact of Stress on the GI Tract

If you haven’t heard the phrase “I was so scared, I almost peed myself,” maybe you have heard “I was so scared, I almost pooped myself.” Your ability to hold in urine and feces is controlled by the same muscles so it makes sense that they’d behave the same way under stress. It’s true that stress and anxiety can cause diarrhea so we know that our bowels are impacted by stress.

Looking at studies of IBS patients, too, the connection between bowel health and mental health is clear. About 60% of IBS patients have generalized anxiety disorder. Another 20% have depression. That’s a pretty significant overlap.

Incontinence and Mental Health

So, back to the chicken and egg question. Both anxiety and depression have been found in many patients with incontinence. But was the incontinence caused by the mental health problems or did the mental health problems cause the incontinence?

It turns out it’s a two way street when it comes to anxiety and urinary incontinence. Anxiety and incontinence interact and exacerbate each other. And, anxiety is a risk factor for developing incontinence.

The same appears to be true with other mental health issues, like depression, which is also a risk factor for developing incontinence. Several studies have linked depression to urinary incontinence in women especially. And, people with pelvic floor disorders (incontinence is one type of pelvic floor disorder) are three times more likely to experience depression than the general population.

Anxiety even rears its head when you start talking about overactive bladder.  According to one study, 48% of patients with overactive bladder exhibit anxiety symptoms. Plus, according to the same study, about 24% of OAB patients have moderate to severe anxiety.

While anxiety and incontinence don’t have to go together, it’s easy to see how incontinence can cause anxiety -- maybe even more anxiety than you started with.

What You Can Do

It’s easy for someone on the outside to say just don’t worry, right? However, this is definitely one of those things that’s easier said than done. If you have significant anxiety or depression, please give your doctor a call. For the more common daily stressors in all of our lives, there are things you can do to help you worry less and hopefully decrease leaks too.

One option is to use absorbent products, so that the only person that knows you leaked is you. NAFC recently conducted a study that found that those who felt positively about wearing absorbent products said it was because it made them feel more protected and in control. And who doesn’t want to feel more in control? Plus, Lily Bird can help take the stress out of going to the store by delivering pads and disposable underwear straight to your door.

Don’t forget about trying pilates to doing Kegels or making dietary changes to see if that helps with incontinence or stress, too. Whether your stress is a symptom or a cause, getting it under control can help no matter what situation you’re in.

~Written by Lily Bird, a proud Trusted Partner of NAFC

About Lily Bird

Lily Bird

Lily Bird is for all of us women with leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas. We squeeze when we sneeze and drip when we jump. And we think it's high time we stop saying sorry for the spritz.

If you’re ready to tell your bladder who’s boss, Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered right to your door. Start your free trial today.


What Are Kidney Stones? And How Do They Contribute To Incontinence?

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones affect 1 in 11 people in the US.  Kidney stones can (literally) be a real pain. But what are they? What causes them? And how can they be prevented? Read on to find out.

What are kidney stones?

The kidneys are part of your urinary tract system. Their job is to control the fluid and chemical levels in the body by cleaning the blood, then creating urine from the waste and the excess fluid in the body. Sometimes, the urine in your body contains a high level of minerals and salts that form hard deposits inside of your kidneys. These are kidney stones. Kidney stones may start out small, but can grow quite large in some cases.  

Kidney stones sometimes don’t have any symptoms, and remain inside the kidneys without issue. Or, they may travel through the urinary tract to the bladder, where they exit the body through urine. Passing a kidney stone can sometimes take several weeks and may be quite painful.  If the stone is too large, it may become lodged in the urinary tract, creating even more problems.

Types of Kidney Stones.

There are four types of kidney stones. These include: 

  • Calcium stones. These are the most common type of kidney stones. Certain diets or metabolic conditions or medications may contribute to an increase in calcium in urine.

  • Struvite stones. These types of stones form in response to an infection, like a bladder infection. Although rare, these stones can be more common in people prone to getting urinary tract infections.

  • Uric acid stones. These happen to people who drink too little fluids or who eat a high protein diet.  Certain conditions can also lead to uric acid stones, such as type 2 diabetes, or gout.

  • Cystine stones. A hereditary condition causing the kidneys to produce too much of certain amino acids.  

Do Kidney Stones Cause Incontinence?

Kidneys stones can sometimes interfere with urination, since they travel down the tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder. This can create blockages, which may make it difficult to pass urine. Kidney stones may also make you feel like you need to urinate more often. You may feel an urgent need to use the bathroom. Sometimes this can lead to leaks if you are unable to make it to a bathroom in time. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Kidney Stones?

They symptoms of a kidney stone may vary depending on the location and size of the stone. Some stones are so small they may not cause any discomfort at all. (Although even small stones can cause a lot of pain.) Or, the symptoms may change as the stone shifts and moves from the kidney to the bladder. Typically symptoms of kidney stones may include:

  • Pain in the back or sides, the groin, or the lower abdomen. 

  • Pain when urinating

  • Red, pink or brown tinted urine. This happens when blood enters the urine.

  • Cloudy or bad smelling urine

  • Needing to urinate often, or feeling an intense need to empty your bladder.

  • Feeling a burning sensation when urinating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Passing small amounts of urine

 

Are Kidney Stones Painful?

 Kidney stones can range from being uncomfortable, to extremely painful, and the amount of pain, and location of that pain can change as the stone moves through your urinary tract. 

Why are kidney stones so painful? It makes sense when you think about it. The stone is trying to pass through the tube from the kidney to the bladder, which is extremely small. As the stone enters the tube, it may block urine, causing it to build up and create pressure and pain. In addition, the ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder) contracts as the stone moves through it, pushing it closer to the bladder to get rid of it, which also causes pain.

You may feel this pain in the back or sides, where the kidneys are located or, as the stone moves closer to the bladder, you may feel it in your abdomen or groin, and urination may feel painful, much like when you have a urinary tract infection.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

There is no one cause of kidney stones, but certain diets or conditions may make you more prone to developing them.  Having a family history of kidney stones, not drinking enough fluid, being overweight, and certain diets can all make you more susceptible to getting kidney stones. Additionally, if you have conditions such as diabetes, gout, or gastrointestinal diseases (diarrhea, constipation, IBS), you may be at a greater risk for developing kidney stones.  

How Do You Treat Kidney Stones?

Waiting for the kidney stone to pass is the most common form of treatment.  This can take from a few days to a few weeks.  Luckily, over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve most of the discomfort you may feel. 

 However, if you’re in unbearable pain, or the stone becomes lodged for too long, surgery to remove the stone may be required. 

How Do You Prevent Kidney Stones?

Some people are more prone to develop kidney stones, based on heredity or their own history of stones.  People who have had kidney stones in the past are more likely to develop another in the future.

However, there are some things that you can do to help prevent those hard mineral deposits from forming in the first place. 

  • Stay Hydrated. Ensure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated. By maintain a good amount of fluid in the body, the kidney is better able to filter calcium, making it less likely that a build up will occur.  

  • Watch Your Diet. If you suffer from frequent kidney stones, avoid high protein diets, and reduce your sugar, and especially your salt consumption. Watch your calcium intake too to ensure you’re not overdoing it (pay attention to vitamins and supplements, especially if you’re already eating calcium rich foods). 

  • Reduce Your Weight.  Losing weight can reduce your risk for kidney stones. This is in part because reducing your weight may lead to a healthier diet, with less salty food or animal fats.  Incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet and practice regular exercise to reduce the weight.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.

5 Ways To Calm Yourself When You Start To Feel Overwhelmed

5 Ways To Calm Yourself When You Feel Overwhelmed

In today’s world, it seems that everyone is stressed out. And what’s more, many people wear it as a badge of honor. Being “so busy” makes us feel productive and in charge. And everyone else is the same, so why should we feel any different?

But stress has a lot of negative effects that can build up over time. It affects not only your mood and behavior, but it can lead to real medical issues if left untreated. 

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, here are 5 ways to take some of the pressure off when it all starts to feel a bit too much.

  

Five Ways To Calm Yourself Down

Be More Mindful.

Yes, mindfulness is all the rage these days, but for good reason. Mindfulness has a host of health benefits, but among other things, it can help you control stress.  When you practice mindfulness, you’re removing yourself from thinking about a stressful situation, reminding yourself to be grateful for the good things happening in your life, and shifts your perspective so that you can see things more clearly. All this works to calm your body and mind down and reduce stress.

Deep Breathing. 

Sometimes, the simple act of taking some time to breathe deeply can make a huge difference? Why? It cues your body to slow down and relax. Taking deep belly breaths can help ease stress and anxiety, slow your heartbeat and stabilize your blood pressure. Its also that mindfulness trick again. Focusing on your breath helps to ground you and bring your attention to one thing, giving your mind a break and your body a chance to recoup.  It’s easy to do, and you don’t have to do it for very long to reap the benefits.  Just find a quiet spot, and slowly breathe in deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand. Then slowly let the air pass back through your nose as you exhale. Even a few minutes can be helpful in a pinch, but regular practice of this (daily for 10-20 minutes) can do wonders.

 

Periodic Breaks.

Taking breaks not only help calm you down when you’re stressed, they can help make you more productive. When we work non-stop without taking a break, we’re pushing our brain to the limit, naturally tiring it out after a while, just like any other muscle in the body. But evidence suggests that taking periodic breaks helps to recharge our brain and become more focused. Taking a break may seem counter-productive to getting things done, but you’ll help yourself out in the long run by grabbing a glass of water or a healthy snack each hour, and you’ll feel much more relaxed and productive. It’s a win-win!

Call A Friend.

Studies show that those with a strong social network tend to live longer than those without one. That’s because our friends help build us up, give us a sense of belonging, and help us deal with difficult situations. We don’t always have to go it alone, so when you’re feeling like you’re about to snap, pick up the phone and chat it up with someone who you know has your back. It’s a great stress reliever.

Get Moving.

Regular exercise can do wonder for keeping your stress levels low, but even if you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in a while, taking a 5-10 minute brisk walk when you’re extra stressed can make a big difference. You’ll remove yourself from your stressful situation of the moment, get some fresh air, and release powerful stress-fighting endorphins. 

Above everything, remember that fighting stress is important to remain healthy and productive.  If you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, practice one or more of the five tips above.

Ask The Expert: Does Incontinence Happen Over Time Or Does It Come On Suddenly?

Ask The Expert: Does Incontinence Happen Over Time Or Does It Come On Suddenly?

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: Does incontinence happen over time, or is it something that comes on suddenly?

Expert Answer:  This really depends on your unique situation. For many people, aging, and pelvic floors that have been weakened over time can slowly contribute to incontinence. For women, this process may have started with childbirth as the initial factor that caused the weakness. Overtime, if not treated or seen to, a weak pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, even if it didn’t happen right away after birth (or if it went away for a while).

There are other things that can contribute to incontinence over time too. Being over weight can place excess pressure on the bladder, making it harder to avoid accidents. Smoking can contribute to incontinence since many long-time smokers develop a chronic cough, again placing excess pressure on the bladder and causing the pelvic floor to weaken over time.

Certain neurological diseases, such as MS or Parkinson’s Disease, and diabetes, can also increase your risk for incontinence, as they interfere with the nerve signals between the bladder and the brain.

However, other things can contribute to incontinence too, and can be much more apparent quickly rather than over a period of time.  In men, prostate surgery can sometimes lead to a period of incontinence immediately after the procedure. And incontinence can also result in anyone who may have had neurological damage, such as spinal cord damage from an accident, or other medical condition.  Even some minor conditions, such as a bladder infection, may cause a sudden episode of incontinence. 

Finally, sometimes the foods you eat or the medications you take may cause you to have incontinence. There are many known bladder irritants that can contribute to incontinence: alcohol, caffeine, spicy or acidic foods (keep in mind that this is a case by case basis – not everyone is affected by every bladder irritant).  And, some medications, such has heart and blood pressure medications, or muscle relaxants may act as diuretics, causing you to increase your urine production, and potentially leading to incontinence.

The most important thing to remember here, no matter how incontinence comes about, is that it’s not a normal condition. Common? Yes. Normal? No. Incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging, nor should it be something you feel you need to live with. Many people can see great improvements with behavioral and lifestyle changes, and if those don’t work, you can talk to your doctor about medications, in-office treatments, or even surgery. 

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!

 

Can MS Cause Incontinence?

Can MS Cause Incontinence?

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month here in the US and we’re taking a moment to talk about MS and it’s effect on the bladder and bowel.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) happens when the body’s immune system attacks the protective coating around the nerve fibers in the central nervous system (CNS), damaging the nerves. This alters or stops the messages within the CNS and can produce a variety of symptoms in people.

What are the symptoms of MS?  

While symptoms of MS vary from person to person, and even within the same person at different points throughout their lifetime, some of the more common symptoms of MS are fatigue, pain, numbness or tingling, weakness, walking difficulty, vision problems, sexual problems, dizziness and vertigo, bladder and bowel problems, thinking difficulty, emotional changes and depression.1  Luckily, many of these symptoms are treatable with medication.

How does MS affect bladder function?

In a healthy bladder, the nerves in the bladder communicate through the spinal cord to the brain, notifying it that the bladder needs to be emptied. For this process to work smoothly, it requires a coordination between the bladder muscles and the sphincter.

For people with MS, bladder function can be impaired when the signal from the bladder to the brain is delayed or blocked. This can cause the bladder to be either overactive (often referred to as a “spastic” bladder), or under-active, resulting in the inability to empty the bladder completely.  Either of these conditions can lead to a variety of problems, including:

  • Urinary Urgency (The need to urinate frequently and urgently.)

  • Nocturia (Needing to wake to use the bathroom more than one time per night.)

  • Difficulty urinating.

  • Sphincter Dyssynergia A problem where there is both a storage dysfunction and an emptying dysfunction. The bladder is trying to contract and empty, and the urethra contracts instead of relaxing, allowing little or no urine to pass.

  • Under-active Bladder: The nerve signals from the bladder to the brain are damaged and the signal for the bladder to contract and release urine are blocked. This can cause the bladder to eventually overflow and leak urine, or, if the bladder cannot empty completely, results in urinary retention.

In addition to disease related complications, some medications for MS can also cause bladder problems.

How can bladder problems with MS be treated?

Luckily, there are various treatment options that can be used to address bladder problems associated with multiple sclerosis. 

Behavioral modifications, such as avoiding bladder irritating foods and drinks, and bladder retraining can help to manage problems in some people. Pelvic floor physical therapy can also work by strengthening the pelvic floor muscle, providing greater muscle control.

Intermittent self-catheterization, in which a small tube is inserted into the urethra to empty the bladder, can prevent the bladder from overfilling and help prevent urinary infections.

There are many pharmaceutical options available for bladder control. In addition, PTNS, Interstim, and Botox are all in office procedures that can have a positive effect on bladder control for many patients.

Talk to your doctor about your options to find one that works best for you.

References: 1. National MS Society: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms

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.

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! 

NAFC's Getting Started Guide For Managing Incontinence

NAFC's Step By Step Guide To Managing Incontinence

NAFC's Step By Step Guide To Managing Incontinence

If you’re new to this whole incontinence game, you may wonder how on earth you’re going to manage. Preventing leaks, keeping things clean, and navigating the isles of adult absorbent products at the grocery store are all probably top of mind right now, and rightly so. These are often the first steps people take when trying to manage bladder leaks.

But what comes next? And how do you even begin to tackle those items we just listed above?

We have you covered. NAFC has dedicated a whole section of our website to just getting started (which, to be honest, is often the hardest part). We’ve outlined the things you should do before you even make your first appointment to see your doctor (which you should do anyway, even if you complete all the steps we outline in our Getting Started Guide). 

Getting Started Guide For Managing Incontinence

 

This guide covers the basic steps, from how to keep a bladder diary, finding the right absorbent product, practicing pelvic floor strengthening moves, retraining your bladder or bowel, and a look at the vast array of options you have available to you for managing incontinence.

So take a look around, and start implementing some of these tips!  Begin with the first step:  finding an immediate way to manage your condition with absorbent products.   Then move on to the other helpful tips.

Patient Perspective: Roger's Story

Rogers Story of Living With Overactive Bladder

I see it all the time – the ads for OAB, featuring these women who have to run to the bathroom every five minutes. They’re always women, right? You never see a man in these ads.  But I’m a man, and quite frankly, I feel a little left out.

I have OAB. I’ve lived with this condition for the past several years. I don’t have any known reason for it – I’ve never had prostate issues, am not on many medications, and rarely get bladder infections. But the urge to use the bathroom strikes me often and it’s pretty annoying. I usually make it in time, but have had the occasional leak. I’ve talked with my doctor about it but after he determined that my prostate was normal, he sort of brushed it off for a while – I don’t think he’s used to hearing a man come in with this type of problem unless it’s prostate related. But I finally was persistent enough that he prescribed some medication.

I experienced so many negative side effects from each medication I tried over the course of several months that I stopped them completely. It was then that my doctor finally recommended Botox. Yes, I had Botox injected into my bladder. And I have to say it was one of the best things that happened to me. It took almost no time to work, I didn’t need to use a catheter (I guess some people need to), and it lasted about 6-7 months before I had to go back in for another treatment.

It took some pushing on my part, but I was able to get treatment for my OAB. If you’re a man with this condition, don’t let it control you, and don’t believe there’s not a treatment available for you. The media and drug companies focus on women because it’s more common for them to have these types of issues, but men can have them just as easily.  And the medications and procedures work just as well for us.

Do something about your OAB. I’m so glad I persisted and got treatment for it. It helps me live a fuller life without the worry of overactive bladder.

Roger S., New York, NY

Patient Perspective: Debbie's Story

Debbie's Story - Supporting Her Husband With Incontinence

My husband suffers from incontinence. He has for years. He never thought I knew, but I noticed when he would rush to the bathroom with a change of underwear. I watched as he consistently sought out the restrooms anywhere we went. And I definitely noticed the changed bed sheets when I would come home from work due to leaks the previous night. 

I wanted so badly to help him. To talk with him about it. To tell him that I understand and that it is ok. But how do you tell an ex-army man whose very core is built on pride and being strong that you’re concerned about him wetting himself?

So, I stayed silent for years, and so did he, until finally he couldn’t anymore. We were out to dinner with friends when he had an accident, and had forgotten to bring along a spare pair of underwear. Panicked, he made up an excuse for us to leave immediately, and finally broke down in the car, telling me what I had known for years.

He was so ashamed, but I did my best to show him that I was supportive and didn’t think any less of him because of it. In the end, telling me was the best thing that could have happened, since I finally was able to help him.

We made an appointment to go see a doctor together, and he learned the many options available to him for treatment. He’s doing so much better now.

And though he still has some occasional leaks, he knows that he has me to lean on and doesn’t have to live with the stress of constantly trying to hide it.

I only wish I could have given him the courage to speak up sooner.
 
Debbie R., Omaha, NE

Patient Perspective: Brad's Story

Brad's Story - Opening Up About Incontinence

My friends and I are close. Growing up in a small town, we’ve always been there for each other – to joke with, lean on in hard times, and to razz each other. We have a tight-knit group of 5 and they’ve been my chosen family since I was 12. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since our early days, but here we all are.

I experienced incontinence after having my prostate removed in 2013. It wasn’t a fun thing to go through, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it, but the one thing that made it easier was that I knew to expect it – and that I wasn’t the only one.

You see, one of my buddies in our group, Joe, had also gone through something similar a few years back. He pulled me aside before surgery and told me that the worst thing that was going to happen was that I’d probably have some leaks – maybe a lot. It had happened to him for at least a year after his surgery and he said it was “hell “.

But he told me that the thing that had made it worse was not knowing it was coming, That was why he was talking to me – he wanted to me to know that I wasn’t alone. And, if it weren’t for his advice and pick-me-up talks, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year.

I’ve recovered well and don’t really experience the leaks anymore. But I still talk about it. Because that’s what we should all do with those we are close to. You never know who might benefit from your experience, or who might also go through something similar and just need a friend or to know they are not alone.

Don’t let your own embarrassment get in the way of opening up to your loved ones. I’m sure glad Joe didn’t.
 
Brad T., Auburn, AL

Patient Perspective: Samuel's Story

Samuel's Story - Getting Help For Incontinence, Enlarged Prostate

How many of you men have incontinence? How many of you would admit if you did?  It’s a hard thing to come to terms with as a man. I know, because I’m one of the "lucky ones" who has been hit with this condition.

I had been noticing the need to use the bathroom more frequently for a while, but didn’t think much of it until I was on vacation with my wife a few years ago. We were in DC, walking around, being the typical tourists, when I suddenly felt the need to go. I wasn’t totally familiar with the area, and it was crowded, so it took me a while to find a bathroom. Unfortunately, it took me too long. I leaked – just a little bit, but enough to be able to tell. Luckily, I had a sweatshirt with me so I just wrapped it around my waist and told my wife we needed to head back to the hotel.

I was so embarrassed. She didn’t understand what had happened until we got back and saw that I needed to change my pants. And even then, it was hard for either of us to comprehend what had happened – I’m a grown man! I shouldn’t be wetting myself. We both brushed it off as a fluke and went on with the rest of our trip.

But a few weeks later at the gym, it happened again. And then again while doing some yard work at home. I started to feel like my body was betraying me. Why was this happening? I didn’t tell my wife that the problem had persisted until a few months later, when it was clear that I would need to get some help. She was so understanding and helpful. She did some research online to see what may be causing it and the treatment options available, helped me find a urologist to talk to, and even came with me to my appointment.

I’m happy to say that after talking to the doctor and getting treatment, I’m doing much better. Turns out I had an enlarged prostate so I’m on medication for that and it’s greatly reduced the need to run to the bathroom every five minutes, not to mention the leaks.

This has been a very humbling experience, but I’m glad that I opened up to my wife about it and that she was so understanding and helpful. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to get to a doctor about this had it not been for her pushing me along. Now, I’m leak free and am able to travel, workout and do pretty much what I want again without having to worry.

Samuel M., Cheyenne, WY