Bladder Health Hacks

Bladder Health Hacks

Those with incontinence know that having it can be a lot of work. Just being prepared takes effort, and having an accident can create a laundry list (literally) of things you have to do.

There are of course many standard things that you do to protect yourself. Wear protection, talk to your doctor, etc. But, like with any condition, people find different ways of coping that may not always seem as obvious to others. We wanted to know what people do on a daily basis that helps them deal with incontinence. So we asked. Here are some of the best tips we heard:

Talk about it. 

One of the first and best things you can do when you have incontinence is to talk about it. Many people are embarrassed to have incontinence and for that reason try to keep it hidden from friends, family and even their doctor for years. But opening up about your incontinence can really take a load off. You’ll often find that people are supportive you and you may just find the push you need to seek treatment. Too nervous to talk to someone close to you? Try the NAFC message boards. It’s an anonymous forum filled with supportive people who are experiencing bladder or bowel conditions. It’s a warm and friendly community and can be a great place to connect with others who can share tips with you, or just lend an ear.  Sign up for the message boards here.

Don’t be afraid to change your doctor.

Most physicians are very helpful when patients come to them with incontinence. But if you feel that you’re being brushed off, it’s time to find a new physician. Incontinence may be common as we age, but it’s not normal, and you should never be told to just live with it. And, if you’re feeling like your treatment plan just isn’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about changing things up. Remember – you are in charge of your own health. Be your own advocate.  

Baby powder.

We’ve heard from many people that using baby powder helps to keep moisture at bay when wearing absorbent briefs.  This is a great option to try if you experience a lot of sweating.

Research your condition. 

So many people with incontinence live for years in denial, thinking that if they ignore the problem, it might go away, or at the very least, they won’t have to admit they have the condition. But that’s not a good way to live. Learn as much as you can about your condition and the treatments available. Try behavioral modifications to see if any of them work. Talk to your doctor about your research, and let him or her know if you find something you‘re interested in trying.  Again – no one will care more about your health than you, so don’t be a bystander. Get busy and be in the know. Because knowledge really is power.

Pay attention to what you eat. 

It sounds simple, but watching what you eat really can have an effect on your bladder. First, identify your triggers. Keep a bladder diary for a few days and see if you notice any patterns. Do you feel an urgent need every time you have a diet soft drink? Have an accident each morning after your orange juice? You might start to see some trends that correlate to what you eat, indicating that those are foods that are irritating your bladder. Once you identify your problem foods or drinks, try eliminating them and see if it makes a difference.

Don’t be afraid to try lots of products until you find one that works.

There are so many products on the market, it’s nearly impossible that you won’t eventually find one that works for you. The trick is to think about the 3 F’s: form, fit and function. In other words, figure out what style you like, make sure the fit is good, and think about how and when you will use the product. Then, try lots of brands and styles until you find one that works best. Many mail order services offer sample packs to make it easier (and less expensive) to try different products and most of them also have consultants on hand to walk you through selecting something that will be right for you. 

Be brave.

Incontinence can really shake up your confidence. You may feel nervous to go out for fear of having an accident. Or you may be scared that someone will notice you’re wearing absorbent products. But incontinence is a medical condition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And since over 25 million people live with incontinence, you likely know someone else who has this problem too. So keep your chin up, get treatment, and get busy living your life. Holding yourself back because of something like incontinence just isn’t worth it.

Your Guide To Treating Incontinence

Your Guide To Treating Incontinence

For many of us, January is a time for setting resolutions – A blank slate where we can rewrite a new reality for ourselves. For those with incontinence, knowing where to start treatment can be one of the biggest challenges.  Luckily, we’re here to help.

Treatment for incontinence has come a long way in recent years.

Here’s a breakdown of steps you can take right now, as well as some more advanced options to look at for the future.

1. Manage incontinence with adult absorbent products.

Managing your incontinence is much different than treating your incontinence, but it is the logical first step. After all, you need to find some way to stay dry until you can properly address the issue. For most people, management will consist of a few things – finding a good absorbent product that works, and watching your food and drink intake to see if there are certain triggers that may make your incontinence worse. Management is a first step, but definitely not the last - while both of these can do wonders in helping you control the symptoms of incontinence, they’re not really addressing the true problem.

2. Behavioral Therapy

Along with diet and exercise, there are several other things you may want to try when treating incontinence. Bladder and bowel retraining – which literally involves training your muscles to hold urine or bowel movements for longer more controlled periods of time – are a good step to try and improvements can often be seen in several weeks.  In addition, many people see vast improvements from physical therapy. A qualified physical therapist (usually specialized in treating the pelvic floor) can give you an examination, pinpoint areas of weakness or tension, and provide a customized treatment plan designed to address your muscle strength or weakness. (Need help finding a PT? Check our Specialist Locator.)

3. Medications.

If behavioral modifications don’t yield the results your looking for, medications may be your next option. Most medications for bladder control work by relaxing the bladder muscles and preventing the spasms that sometimes accompany overactive bladder and incontinence. These work differently for everyone, and can sometimes produce unwanted side effects though, so talk to your doctor about your options before settling on one.

4. Advanced Therapy Options

If medications don’t work for you, or you don’t like the side effects that they present, there are still other options. InterStim and Botox injections are two of the more advanced, yet very effective procedures available.   InterStim, also known as sacral neuromodulation, works by stimulating the nerves that control your bladder, bowel and rectum, and the muscles related to urinary and anal functions (the sacral nerves). InterStim stimulates these nerves with a mild current, which helps your bladder/bowel/rectum work as they should.  Botox, treats overactive bladder symptoms by calming the nerves that trigger the overactive bladder muscle. Both procedures are fairly simple and take about an hour to complete.

5. Surgery.

For some, surgery may be an option. There are several types of surgeries that address stress urinary incontinence.  These procedures are intended to help correct a weakened pelvic floor, where the bladder neck and urethra have dropped. The most popular procedure is to use a sling, which serves as a “hammock” to support the urethra. Surgical slings may be used in both men and women who experience stress incontinence, and also women who have experienced pelvic organ prolapse. There are many types of sling procedures so be sure to talk to your doctor about your options and research what is right for you.

The most important thing to remember when exploring incontinence treatment is that you have options. Talk to your doctor about your wishes and work together to find a treatment that works for you.

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

What's The Difference Between IBS and Crohns Disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behavioral Therapies For Reducing Nocturia

Behavioral Therapies For Reducing Nocturia

Behavioral Therapies For Reducing Nocturia

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

Here are a few tips to help manage the symptoms:

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

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

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

Six Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

6 Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

6 Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

Whether you’ve just started experiencing bladder leaks, or have been dealing with them for a while, knowing how to manage incontinence can be difficult.  And even if you’ve scheduled an appointment to see your doctor, there are things you can do before speaking with him or her to start treating the problem.

This week we’re focusing on management techniques that don’t require a visit to your doctor. NAFC has a great guide on the website that will walk you through the steps of management and things to try to control bladder leaks. Check out all the steps below:

Step 1: Finding products to help you stay clean and dry

Step 2: Assess Your Condition

Step 3: Measure Your Pelvic Floor Strength

Step 4: Pelvic Floor Exercises

Step 5: Develop A Voiding Strategy

Step 6: Get Professional Help

It is possible that by performing the steps above, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate your symptoms on your own. At the very least, it will give you some good information to share with your doctor and your initial efforts will help them to get you on a course to a successful treatment plan.

Stay with us this week as we provide more tips on how to manage bladder leaks! 

Access the full guide above here, or download our printed brochure with the above tips from our Resource Center!

When To Seek Help For Bladder Leaks

When To Seek Help For Bladder Leaks

When To Seek Help For Bladder Leaks

It’s the 3rd week of Bladder Health Awareness Month and this week is all about when and how to seek help.  Talking to someone about incontinence can be hard, (most people wait 6.5 years before seeing a doctor!) but it is often a necessary step in order to get the treatment you need. And remember that what you share with your doctor is likely something he or she has heard many times before. Incontinence is a very common (but not normal!) condition, and once you take the first step in opening up about it, it won’t seem as big of a deal as it may now.

So, how do you know it’s time to talk to someone? Hopefully, you’ve tried some of the tips we’ve discussed in the past (see our post last week for a Step By Step Guide on things you can try). Often, making small changes can make a big difference and can reduce or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence. If, after taking these steps you’re still having problems, it’s probably time to seek professional help. This is nothing to be ashamed of – different treatments work for different people. And the steps you’ve taken so far will help your doctor in determining a solution that might work better for you. So take notes during your self-treatment process and note what does and doesn’t make a difference. Then take them to your doctor and start the discussion.

Opening up about incontinence may not be limited just to your doctor – your significant other, close friend or family may also be someone you’d like to share with. Don’t live with this condition in silence – many people who open up to loved ones learn that they are not alone – many people have this problem and it helps to be able to talk about it with others who understand. Not only that, having someone in your corner as you make the changes needed overcome and treat the condition can be invaluable. And, if you’re too nervous to talk to someone you know, there is always the NAFC Message Boards, which provide a safe place for you to share your concerns and thoughts with others like you.

So make that appointment, and follow along with us this week as we talk about how to talk with your doctor, and others, about incontinence!

Need an extra push to make a doctor's appointment? Sign up for our 8-Week Challenge

___________________________________

Have you missed the past couple of weeks?  Here are some of the things we’ve been covering this month to help you live a #LifeWithoutLeaks!

Week 1:  Accepting That You Have Incontinence

Types of Incontinence – The Break Down

Take The NAFC 8-Week Challenge

Men: Let’s Talk About Bladder Leakage

Why Incontinence Is A Condition We Need To Worry About

Week 2: What You Can Do To Manage Bladder Leaks Before You See Your Doctor

Bladder Irritants And Your Diet

Finding An Absorbent Product That Works

Top 3 Things To Look For In An Absorbent Product

Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Fight Incontinence

Incorporating Pelvic Floor Exercises Into Your General Workout Routine

NAFC's Top 8 Tips For Caregivers

Top 8 Tips For Caregivers

Top 8 Tips For Caregivers

Being a caregiver to someone you love is complicated work – it can be both rewarding, and draining all at once. The emotional and physical demands placed on a caregiver are many. Add to that the financial strain that many caregivers face and it’s easy to see how caregivers can become a bit stressed out at times.

Read below to learn our Top 8 Tips for Caregivers.

Learn To Take Care Of Yourself First.

Before you can even begin to care for someone else, you need to ensure that your own needs are met. Eating well, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly will help you stay healthy and energized. And don’t forget about taking regular breaks and time outs for yourself – it may seem like an extravagance, but fitting in a little alone time can do wonders for your mood.  You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to take on the daily demands of caregiving.

Get Organized.

Medical files, legal documents, financial information – who knew that caregiving would involve so much paperwork! Get organized right from the start and create a system that will allow you to keep track of all your important records.  Also, speak with your loved one and make sure that you know their wishes for end of life care and make sure you get any paperwork needed in order.

Get The Help You Need.

There are lots of services out there that can help you manage the load of caregiving. Finding extra medical support, meal assistance, or even having a friend or family member help out for a few hours each week can help shoulder a lot of the burden of caregiving.

Simplify Your Own Life.

Taking care of someone else can make your other daily chores seem harder. Outsource what you can and automate everything else. Hire a cleaning person. Sign up for a food service like Blue Apron. Have your groceries delivered or set up an auto grocery list online for things that you purchase regularly. Set up automatic bill pay for your fixed expenses. Simplifying these things can help free up some of your precious time and energy, and help keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

Connect With Others.

Things are always easier when you have someone else to talk to. Sign up for one of the many online networks available to caregivers and chat with others who understand. You may even be able to find a local support group in your area. Here are some great networks to check out:

Find Ways To Connect With Your Loved One Daily.

With all the routine demands of caregiving – bathing, feeding, managing medications – it can be easy to forget one of the most important things an aging loved one needs – human connection. Don’t get so caught up in the daily demands that you forget to spend quality time with your loved one. Taking daily walks, reading or listening to audio books, playing card games, looking through old pictures or even just watching a favorite television show together can help make your loved one feel loved and connected. And telling them how much you love them will never get old.

Learn About Your Loved One’s Condition.

Learn as much as you can about any conditions that your loved one may be dealing with. Knowing what to expect and how to handle it can make a world of difference.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes.

Caregiving can sometimes be a thankless job, and it’s easy to see how frustrations can morph into feelings of bitterness or resentment toward your loved one. But the saying “Treat others how you would like to be treated” applies in this situation as well.  Think about how you would like to be cared for and try your best to understand your loved ones feelings and what they are going through.

Choosing The Right Long-Term-Care Facility For Your Loved One

Choosing The Right Long-Term-Care Facility For Your Loved One

Choosing The Right Long-Term-Care Facility For Your Loved One

Making the decision to place a loved one in a long-term care facility can be difficult. Feelings of guilt and sadness are often present, despite how necessary the decision may be. But there are many situations where a long-term care facility can provide more help to a loved one than you can – and it doesn’t have to be as grim as many imagine it to be.  In fact, there are many wonderful facilities in the US that provide excellent care.  Be sure to visit the home, or have a trusted friend visit one if you are unable to, and keep this list of things to consider when reviewing your options. (Summarized list from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Your Guide To Choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long-Term Care)

Things to Consider When Choosing A Care Facility

Quality of life

  • Will my loved one be treated in a respectful way?
  • How will the nursing home help my loved one participate in social, recreational, religious, or cultural activities that are important to him/her?
  • Do the residents get to choose what time to get up, go to sleep, or bathe?
  • Can the residents have visitors at any time?  Can they bring pets?
  • Can residents decorate their living space any way they want?
  • What is privacy like?
  • Are the residents able to leave the premises?
  • What services are provided? Are they the services my loved one needs?
  • Can we get a copy of any resident policies that must be followed?

Quality of care

  • What’s a plan of care, who makes it, and what does it look like?
  • Will my loved one and I be included in planning my care?
  • Who are the doctors who will care for my loved one? Can he/she still see their personal doctors?
  • If a resident has a problem with confusion and wanders, how does the staff handle this type of behavior?
  • Does the nursing home’s inspection report show quality of care problems?
  • How often are residents checked on and what is the average wait time if they need assistance?

Location & Availability

  • Is the nursing home close to family and friends?
  • Is a bed available now, or can my loved one’s name be added to a waiting list?

Staffing

  • Is there enough staff to give my loved one the care he/she needs?
  • Will my loved one have the same staff people take care of him/her day to day.
  • How many Certified Nursing Assistants are there and how many residents is a CNA assigned to work with during each shift and during meals? (Note: Nursing homes are required to post this information.)
  • What type of therapy is available at this facility?
  • Is there a social worker available? Can we meet him or her? (Note: Nursing homes must provide medically related social services, but if the nursing home has less than 120 beds, it doesn’t have to have a full-time social worker on staff.

Food & Dining

  • Does the nursing home have food service that my loved one would be happy with and can they provide for special dietary needs? 
  • Does the nursing home provide a pleasant dining experience?
  • Does staff help residents eat and drink at mealtimes if needed?
  • Are there options and substitutes available if they don’t like a particular meal?

Language

  • Is my loved one’s primary language spoken by staff that will work directly with them? If not, is an interpreter available to help them communicate their needs?

Security

  • Does the nursing home provide a safe environment? Is it locked at night?
  • Will my loved one’s personal belongings be secure in their room?

Preventive Care

  • Do residents get preventive care to help keep them healthy? Does the facility help make arrangements to see specialists? (Note: Nursing homes must either provide treatment, or help make appointments and provide transportation to see a specialist.)
  • Is there a screening program for vaccinations, like flu and pneumonia? (Note: Nursing homes are required to provide flu shots each year, but residents have the right to refuse if they don’t want the shot, have already been immunized during the immunization period, or if the shots are medically contraindicated.)

Hospitals

  • Is there an arrangement with a nearby hospital for emergencies and can personal doctors care for my loved one at that hospital?

Licensing & Certification

  • Is the nursing home and current administrator licensed in my loved one’s state?  (Have they met certain state or local government agency standards?)
  • Is the nursing home Medicare- and/or Medicaid-certified? (Note: “Certified” means the nursing home meets Medicare and/or Medicaid regulations and the nursing home has passed and continues to pass an inspection survey done by the State Survey Agency. If they’re certified, make sure they haven’t recently lost, or are about to lose their certification.

Charges & fees

  • Will the nursing home tell me in writing about their services, charges, and fees before my loved one moves into the home? What is included and what is extra? (Note: Medicare- and/or Medicaid-certified nursing homes must tell you this information in writing.) 

To read the full guide, click here.

What Is A Gynecologist?

Many women are familiar with OB/GYNs, but what is a Gynecologist, and how is it different?

What Is A Gynecologist?

A Gynecologist is a doctor that specializes in women’s health, especially as it relates to reproductive organs. Obstetricians are doctors that are specialized in caring for pregnant women. While the two fields are separate, many Gynecologists specialize in both, which is why you often see OB/GYN listed as it’s own specialty.

What Conditions Do Gynecologists Treat?

Gynecologists can treat any issue that relates to a woman’s reproductive organs, but also treats women’s general health issues as well. Some of the things that gynecologists may treat include the following:

How Often Should I See A Gynecologist?

Women should see their gynecologist once a year for regular exams, but visits may be more frequent if they are experiencing problems, or if they are pregnant. This goes for women at any age from teens to older women.

But I’ve Already Gone Through Menopause. Do I Really Still Have To See A Gynecologist?

Yes! In fact, regular screenings are just as important now as they were when you were younger. You should also still receive pelvic exams – even if you’re not getting a Pap smear – to check for things like sexually transmitted diseases, and any signs of cancer. In addition, incontinence or prolapse can also be big concerns as women get older. Don’t just assume that these are a normal part of aging and that nothing can be done. Your gynecologist can work with you to develop a treatment plan for these conditions, and recommend surgery if it is needed and desired. 

What To Expect At Your Gynecologist Visit

At your first visit, your gynecologist will want to get your medical history, and will likely do a pelvic examination. He or she may also do a breast check, to check for any unusual lumps. If they don’t instruct you how to do your own, ask them. Women should perform regular checks for breast lumps on their own outside of their yearly exams so they know what is normal, and can recognize when something seems unusual.

After that, your yearly exams will be pretty routine, unless you have an issue or if you are pregnant. Once you get older, your doctor will talk with you about menopause, the changes and symptoms you may be experiencing, and how to treat them. Your gynecologist will also perform regular checks of the ovaries, vagina, bladder, rectum, and your uterus. A lot can still happen in your later years, including various cancers, STDs, vaginal tears (due to increased dryness of the vaginal walls), incontinence, or prolapse, so it’s important to keep up with those regular routine exams.

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

A Guide To Talking To Your Doctor About Bladder Leakage

Taking the first step in talking to your doctor about bladder or bowel issues is hard, but it’s a necessary part of getting treatment. Make the leap and find a specialist today so that you can start getting this problem under control and living your life again.

Prepare For Your Visit

Preparing for your visit and knowing what to expect can help make this conversation a bit less intimidating. Make sure you read up on the conditions and treatment options available so that you know the right questions to ask your doctor. It may help to write your questions down ahead of time so that you don’t forget them during the appointment, when your nerves can get the better of you. It may also help to keep a bladder or bowel diary for a few days prior to your visit, so that you can give your doctor (and yourself!) a good glimpse into your bathroom patterns. By keeping a diary you may even start to see some common links associated between your habits (what you eat and drink) and your urges or leaks.

What To Expect At Your Appointment

You may be wondering what to expect when you see your doctor.  Here is a rundown on some things he or she may talk with you about or do during your appointment:

Your symptoms.

Your doctor will likely ask you to describe all the symptoms you are experiencing.  This is where your trusty bladder diary that you’ve been filling out will come in handy.  Review this with them and tell them anything else about your incontinence that is causing you trouble.  

Your medical history.

Your doctor will want to know about all of your medical history, particularly details of childbirth and any pelvic surgery.  Be sure to tell him or her about any other problems that may be related to your incontinence – bladder infections, difficulty urinating, neurologic problems such as back injury, stroke, or any gynecologic problems are all things that may play into your symptoms and help your doctor determine an appropriate treatment plan for you.

Prior treatments for incontinence.

Talk with your doctor about what you’ve done to treat your incontinence, and how it has worked for you.  Have you used medication?  Had surgery? Any other procedures?  He needs to know.

Physical examination. 

Your doctor will likely perform a physical examination.  He or she may test your urine for infection or other problems, catheterize you to determine if you are emptying the bladder completely, or examine you while coughing and straining to see if that has any effect on incontinence.  In more advanced cases, your doctor may also request that an X-ray or MRI of the bladder be done to get a better insight into what is happening.

Your wishes. 

It is important to note that while your doctor may suggest some options he or she feels are best for you, you have a strong say in your treatment plan too.  Voice any concerns you have about certain treatment options and ask about ones that you are interested in.  Not keen on medications? Tell him!  Want to see if physical therapy may help?  Ask more about this option.  Your wishes matter and your doctor will want to know the types of treatments you are willing to try.  After all, by setting you up with a treatment plan you are on board with, you’ll be more likely to stick with it and experience success, which is exactly what your doctor wants for you.  So speak up!

Be Open

Above all else, be as open and honest about your condition as you can be. This can be an embarrassing and hard conversation to have, but know that you are speaking with a medical professional whose job it is to have these discussions. And trust us, you are most certainly not the first patient, nor will you be the last, to have this conversation with them.  This is your chance – give them any and all information that may help them assemble the best plan possible for you.

Need some more inspiration to talk to your doctor? Check out these inspirational stories from people who made the leap!

The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown Of Different Specialties And When You Should See Them

The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown Of different SPecialties And When You SHould See Them.

The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown Of different SPecialties And When You SHould See Them.

Have you been thinking about talking to a doctor about your bladder leakage problems, but just can’t muster the courage, or figure out exactly who you should talk to about it? You’re not alone. A recent poll from NAFC asked people who suffer from incontinence how long it took them to talk to their doctor.  Almost half of them waited at least a year before bringing it up (some as many as 6 + years!) and nearly 30% said they still hadn’t had the discussion.  We get it – incontinence can be an embarrassing subject to talk about – even with your doctor.  But the sooner you have the discussion, the sooner you can receive treatment. And besides, we’re pretty sure your doctor has probably had this discussion with many patients, many times before.

You may be wondering what type of doctor you should see.  That really depends.  Many primary care doctors treat incontinence and can be a good starting point, but for advanced treatment (especially if you are considering something like surgery), a urologist may be the better bet.  Here is a breakdown of some common specialties that treat incontinence.  Read through these and think about your own situation and treatment needs to determine the best option for you.

Family Medicine/Primary Care Physician.  

This type of doctor is a general practitioner and provides broad care to many acute, chronic and preventative medical conditions.  The Family Medicine doctor will help you identify the type of incontinence you have and talk with you about your options.  The family medicine doctor may prescribe medication or other treatment, or, for more advanced cases, refer you to a specialist focused in urology. 

Internist. 

Similar to Family Medicine doctors, Internists provide general care, but usually only to adults.  Internists can serve as a primary care physician, and provide comprehensive, long-term care for both common and complex diseases. 

Urologist. 

These doctors specialize in managing problems with the male and female urinary tract, and male reproductive organs.  Most urologists are surgeons, and many may specialize further in a sub-specialty, such as pediatrics, female urology or gynecology.

Urogynecologist.

An OB-GYN who has advanced training in pelvic floor dysfunction in women. Women with stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse are often referred to a urogynecologist for treatment.

Physical Therapist.

Physical Therapists, or “PTs” that focus on women’s health often treat pelvic floor disorders, which cover a wide range of problems such as incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, or joint pain.  The focus of physical therapy is to strengthen and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor and to design physical activity programs that help the patient in these areas.

OBGYN. 

A doctor specialized in obstetrics and gynecology is a doctor who manages the reproductive health of women, family planning, pregnancy, and postnatal health. 

Gynecologist.  

A Gynecologist specializes in the reproductive health of women.  Some gynecologists have special training in diagnosing and treating urinary incontinence and prolapse (often urogynecologists).

Geriatrician. 

A geriatrician is a doctor that specializes in the care of older adults. They typically train as a family practitioner or internal medicine doctor, and then spend at least one extra year completing a geriatrics fellowship. Diseases, medications and illnesses can sometimes affect older people differently than younger patients, and a geriatrician is specially trained to handle these cases. Not everyone needs to see one though – if you have established a relationship with a family practitioner or internal medicine doctor and are happy with your care, feel free to continue! But, if as an older adult, you are suffering from a number of diseases or impairments (physical or cognitive) you may want to consult with a geriatrician who has received specialized training in treating patients over the age of 65.

Gastroenterologist. 

A gastroenterologist is a doctor that has received special training in managing diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract and liver. They study how materials move through the stomach, how they digest and absorb into the body, and then how they are removed as waste from the system. Gastroenterologists typically treat colon cancer, GERD (heartburn), hemorrhoids, bloody stool, ulcers, gallbladder issues, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and pancreatitis. You will typically be referred to a Gastroenterologist by your FP or internist if you experience any abnormalities related to your stools, or digestion, including blood in your stool, difficulty swallowing or abdominal pain. Additionally, many men and women over 50 receive screening for colon cancer from a gastroenterologist.

Dietitian. 

A dietitian is a health care professional that treats nutritional problems in patients. They typically work with both sick and healthy people to formulate food and nutrition plans for patients based on their conditions, and help them incorporate them into their lifestyle. Dietitians may be helpful to patients looking to modify their food intake to avoid bladder irritants.

Once you’ve determined the best doctor to see for your incontinence, it’s time to make an appointment!  Use the NAFC Specialist Locator to find a doctor near you and call them today.  You’ll be that much closer to managing and treating your symptoms.

What Is A Urologist?

What Is A Urologist?

While most people who experience bladder issues start with their primary doctor, a Urologist can be a great next step in determining more advanced treatment options. Here’s a breakdown of what urologist do, when to see them, what conditions they treat, and what you can expect at your appointment.

What is a Urologist?

A urologist is a specialist that treats diseases of the urinary tract in both men and women, and also the reproductive system in men. A urologist may generalize in all conditions, or they may specialize in a specific gender, pediatrics, neurological conditions, or oncology.

Urologists are required to complete four years of college, and then an additional four years of medical schooling. After that, they typically spend 4-5 years in a residency program, working with and learning from trained urologists.

What conditions do urologists treat?

Urologists can treat anything related to the urinary tract or male reproductive system. Some common conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Incontinence (Overactive bladder, urinary incontinence)
  • Bedwetting
  • Prolapse (women)
  • Prostate Health (BPH, prostate cancer)
  • Cancer (bladder, kidney, prostate, testicular)
  • Kidney diseases or stones
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Erectile dysfunction (men)
  • Infertility (men)
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s)

A urologist will typically perform various tests to diagnose the condition, and may then suggest a number of different treatment options, potentially including surgery. Urologists are trained in performing specific types of surgery, such as sling procedures for urinary incontinence or prolapse, repairing urinary organs, removing blockages, vasectomy’s, removing tissue from enlarged prostates, or even removing the prostate all together.

When should I see a urologist?

Your primary care doctor may refer you to a urologist if they are not seeing improvements in your symptoms or it the problem requires more specialized care than they can provide.  If you experience any of the following, you may want to consult with a urologist:

Men should also see a urologist regularly for prostate health exams, if they have any problems with infertility, and if they need a vasectomy.

What Can I Expect During My Urology Exam?

As with other doctors visits you’ve had, your urologist will want to get to know you and will ask for your complete medical history, a list of the medications you’re taking, and a rundown of the symptoms or concerns you’re having. If you’ve been keeping any type of bladder or bowel diary, now is the time to share it. Your urologist will also likely ask you for a urine sample, so be sure not to arrive with an empty bladder.

After that, a physical exam will usually follow that will allow the urologist to examine your ailments more closely, and also perform general health checks (such as assessing the prostate in men).

Depending on your condition, other tests may be performed, such as imaging scans, cystoscopy, or urodynamics, PSA test, or testosterone levels, to help better diagnosis your condition.

Once your urologist has a good understanding of the condition, he or she will be able to recommend a treatment plan for you. This may include additional tests to determine severity, behavioral modifications, medications, or even surgery.

If you find that you need to see a urologist, don’t be nervous! They are trained professionals who can help you find the right treatment for your condition. The most important thing to remember when visiting a urologist is to be open and honest when discussing your concerns, even if it feels embarrassing or uncomfortable to you. It’s the only way that your urologist will be able to provide a proper treatment plan for you.

Watch NAFC's Videos For Tips On Self-Catheterization

Being told that you have to use a catheter can be scary, but many people use a catheter to empty their bladders on both a temporary and a long-term basis. And while you might recoil from the idea at first, once you get the hang of using one and see the benefits it can bring, it you may wonder how you were ever able to get by without it.

With a little practice, using a catheter can become second nature to you.

Here are our best tips for using a urinary catheter.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor lots of questions. Catheters should be prescribed by your doctor and proper instruction should be given to you by your healthcare provider. If you are unsure of the process, speak up.
  • Be sure to keep the catheter and catheter site clean to avoid infections (UTIs are common with those using a catheter). Wash at least twice per day.
  • Use lubrication when inserting the catheter to reduce pain, discomfort, and friction – all of which may also help reduce infection.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly prior to and after emptying the urine bag.
  • Be careful of tugging on the tubing, twisting, it, or stepping on the tubing when you are walking. It may be helpful for you to clip the tubing to your clothing to avoid this.
  • Always keep the urine bag below your bladder (below your waste) to prevent urine from flowing back into your bladder and causing an infection.
  • Drink plenty of fluid to help keep your urine flowing well.
  • Stock up on spare catheter equipment for emergencies.
  • Call your doctor if you experience any of the following
    • Trouble inserting or cleaning your catheter
    • Urine leakage between catheterizations
    • You notice any type of smell
    • Blood in the urine
    • Skin rash
    • Pain or burning in the urethra, bladder, or lower back
    • Swelling, draining, or redness in your urethra.
    • Any sign of a urinary tract infection, such as a burning sensation, a need to urinate often, a fever, or chills.

Learning how to use a catheter doesn’t have to be daunting.

Watch NAFC’s videos on how to self-catheterize for both men and women here.

Self-Catheterization for Women:

Self Catheterization for Men:

ASK THE EXPERT: Is A Bladder Diary Really Necessary?

Is A Bladder Diary Really Necessary?

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

Question: What’s a bladder diary, and is it really necessary that I keep one?

Answer: A bladder diary is a great tool for those looking to treat their incontinence, and should be used as a first step in understanding your specific condition. A bladder diary will track the number of times you have gone to the bathroom in a day, if you’ve had any leakage (and the amount), and also tracks your food and drink consumption. By recording all of this over a series of days (at least 2-3 but up to a week or two can be really helpful), you may be able to see trends over time. For instance, perhaps you always experience leakage at a certain time of day, or after you’ve had a certain food or drink. These realizations can help you adjust your routine (or your diet) to avoid leaks. And, the tool can be extremely helpful to your physician, as it gives him/her a better picture of your situation and may help advise better treatment options that will work for you.

In short – yes! Everyone who experiences incontinence should try keeping a bladder or bowel diary for at least a couple of days. What you see may surprise you, or, at the very least, provide a roadmap of your condition that you can share with your doctor.

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

3 Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW To Fight Incontinence

Three things you can do right now to fight incontinence

While most people wait until January to start making resolutions, we at NAFC feel that it’s always a good time for positive change. 

Here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW if you are dealing with incontinence.

1. Watch your diet. 

Yes, we know it’s the holidays and this is probably the last thing you want to hear, but ensuring you’re eating and drinking healthy foods is very important when you have incontinence. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol – these are all common triggers for those with incontinence so be careful when you consume them. Learn your triggers by keeping a bladder diary for a few days to see if you notice a pattern in what you’re eating or drinking and your incontinence. Often, modifying your diet can be a very simple step in incontinence management.

Tip:  If you do get the urge to indulge this holiday season, try to limit it to just one or two days.  There is often an urge to binge on not-so-great-for-you foods throughout the full month of December, but limiting yourself to a couple of days can help keep things in check.

2. Find an absorbent product that fits you.  Many people suffer from leaks even when they use protection. The key to overcoming this is to find a product that is comfortable to you and that fits well.  A product that is too big, or too small, can cause leakage.  And pay attention to the packaging – getting a product that isn’t designed specifically for incontinence will do you no good and just leave you feeling frustrated.

3. Make an appointment to see your doctor after the holidays.  Yes, it’s probably the last thing on your mind right now, but by making the decision to talk to someone about your incontinence you’re taking matters into your own hands.  Plus, lining up a doctor visit now will ensure that you stat 2017 off on a good note.

Tip:  Need help finding a doctor? Use our specialist locator to find one in your area.

Adult Bedwetting: Stories And Tips From Real People

Adult Bedwetting: Stories And Tips From Real People

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

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

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your attitude can make a huge difference!

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

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

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

Find a support group!

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


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

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

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

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

Here are the 3 reasons why you should never use a maxi-pad for bladder leaks:

  1. Absorbency. Menstrual pads are designed to hold menstrual flow whereas incontinence pads are designed to absorb the rapid flow of urine. Additionally, incontinence pads are designed to absorb and hold much more fluid than menstrual pads, which means you will have fewer leaks.

  2. Odor Control. Many bladder control pads are made with a wicking fabric that draws moisture away from the skin and eliminates urine odors. Some also contain special gels that change the urine into a more solid substance, which helps with odor.

  3. Skin Protection. The same wicking fabric and gel that help control odor also help protect the skin. Incontinence pads neutralize acidic urine, which can cause skin rashes if left unchanged.

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

 
 

Think Bedwetting Is A Children's Issue? Think Again. Bedwetting In Adults Is More Common Than You Realize.

Bedwetting In adults is very prevalent

We’ve been talking about adult bedwetting this month, a condition that affects over 5,000,000 people in the United States.  For those who don’t deal with this situation nightly, it may seem not seem to be a big deal, but for the millions that pray every night to wake up dry, it can be a source of constant worry, frustration, and embarrassment.  

NAFC recently conducted an online survey in an effort to better understand the types of things adults who struggle with bedwetting go through. In just one month, we received a total of over 600 responses from both patients and caregivers detailing the specifics of their bedwetting, what they do to manage it, and the extent to which the condition affects them.  

What we heard was very surprising.

The age range of those experiencing bedwetting varied greatly, but surprisingly, the majority of respondents were neither very young or old – falling within the ages of 18-44.   And while 1/3 had only been suffering for a few months, over half of our respondents had been dealing with bedwetting for 2 years or more.  

And yet, even though many struggle with this condition for years, over 60% had never talked to their doctor about the problem, and 71% have not been diagnosed with an incontinence condition.

However, the lack of diagnosis does not mean that this condition does not bother them.  Most people who visited NAFC.org came because bedwetting was affecting their quality of life, and their personal relationships.  They are frustrated, and are looking for treatments to their bedwetting.  And, when asked what the biggest challenge is, “Embarrassment” topped the list, which explains why many likely do not seek treatment from a professional.  In fact, embarrassment is such a big factor with adult bedwetting, that it prevents not only lifestyle – like visiting or hanging out with friends, and productivity at work - but in several cases, it even prevents people from  making major life decisions, like getting married, because they are too afraid of someone else finding out about their condition.

For Caregivers, keeping things clean and getting their loved one to talk about their bedwetting problem was the biggest challenge.  Many people who wet the bed do not want to address the issue – again, because they are embarrassed, and are afraid of how their loved one will view them.

Finding the best products to deal with leaks is your best defense against bedwetting. There are many online retailers that can help you with this. The benefits of using an online supplier are many: you can order everything from the comfort of your own home, your packages arrive discreetly at your door, and best of all, you can typically consult with a representative on the phone who can walk you through a series of questions to learn more about your specific needs and suggest a product that will work best for you. Those who have had trouble finding a product that fits and works well with their lifestyle will realize what an amazing benefit this is.

Learn more about online retailers here!

Delicious Zucchini Fries

delicious zucchini fries

Looking for a healthy snack?  Try these delicious zucchini fries from health.com for your next get together.

Ingredients:

2 zucchini, cut into 3-inch sticks

1 egg white

¼ cup milk

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Vegetable cooking spray

Directions:

1.Preheat your oven to 425. 

2.Whisk egg white and milk in a small bowl.

3.In a separate bowl, combine Parmesan and seasoned breadcrumbs.

4.Dip zucchini sticks into the egg mixture, then roll them in the breadcrumb mixture.

5.Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, then place zucchini on sheet.

6.Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Back To The Grind - 4 Ways To Stay Motivated Through The Long Winter Months

4 Ways To Stay Motivated 

The hubbub of the holidays are over, and most people are now back to work, trying to work their way through the long winter.  This time of year – the stretch from January through March (and even April and May in some places) – is tough, waiting out the cold until the great thaw comes to free us from our indoor rut.  After all, you can only watch so much Netflix.  Here are four ways to stay motivated through the frigid months.

1.   Find ways to surprise yourself every day.

There is no better way to break free of a rut than to do something different.  And it doesn’t have to be big – take a new route to work.  Try a new restaurant.  Make a new recipe. Do something nice for a fellow coworker.  Changing up your routine, even in a small way, can add interest to your life and introduce you to new experiences and sensations.

2.  Take up a new hobby.

The winter months are a great time to take up a new skill.  That pottery class you’ve always wanted to try?  Give it a go!  Want to learn how to cook?  There are classes for that as well.  Take up a new sport, and better yet, get a friend to go with you.  The added social benefits you’ll get from hanging out with a friend will make the activity even more uplifting.

3.  Create a goal and make plans for completing it.

Want to get into running?  Sign up for a 5K for the spring and use the coming months to train for it.  Fancy yourself a writer? Make a pact with yourself to carve out 10 minutes each day to write.  Whatever your craft, make a goal, and more importantly, a plan to complete it.  Sticking to a plan will add interest to your days and come spring, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment for all your efforts.

4.  Plan a vacation.

Studies have shown that the mere act of planning, and then looking forward to a vacation is sometimes more or as rewarding as the vacation itself.  Plan a trip that you can look forward to for a few weeks to ease the winter slump.

How do you stay motivated through the winter months?  We’d love to hear your tips!  Share with us in the comments below.