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Urinary Incontinence and Quality of Life

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Urinary incontinence ranks as one of the most under-reported symptoms among both men and women alike. This is due to a few basic misunderstandings:

  1. That urine leakage is something that is embarrassing or shameful
  2. That urinary incontinence is an unavoidable sign of the aging process or childbirth
  3. That there are no remedies for urinary incontinence
  4. That products to remediate urinary incontinence are noticeable, uncomfortable, unreliable, and so on

The good news is that none of these assumptions are correct and that the myths of urinary continence contribute to its negative effects on quality of life.

A report in the Global Library of Women’s Medicine said as much, concluding that “there are multiple facets of urinary incontinence that have the potential to affect health-related quality of life…The disorder may affect emotional and social facets and may also have an impact on activities of daily living and role fulfillment. Given the growing evidence of psychosocial impact, physicians caring for [patients] with urinary incontinence should become familiar with health-related quality of life assessments.”

Now, that is a tidy, but clinically phrased explanation of the realities of urinary incontinence on the individual’s mindset. Let’s consider it in more accessible terms.

As another scientific report explained: “If you’ve ever found yourself passing up an opportunity to go out with friends, go for a walk in the park with your kids or take a long road trip because of your overactive bladder or urinary incontinence, you’re not alone.

Over 25 million adults in the United States are dealing with the same issue, but you’ll most likely never hear anyone talk about it.”

In fact, this same report indicates that most people with urinary incontinence will wait an astonishing six years before seeking out any sort of diagnosis of treatment. Yet, “working with your doctor to find a solution can help you live a full, happy and active life without the dreaded fear of an unpredictable bladder accident.”

It would seem that fear is a driving force behind the harmful effects so many with urinary incontinence experience. So, let’s start with a look at the ways millions of others with urinary incontinence have tackled their fears and improved their quality of life.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Knowledge is power, they tell us, and where any sort of urinary incontinence is concerned, it is entirely true. The first thing to know in order to improve your quality of life is this:

  • You are not alone – millions of other people have the identical struggle. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s National Institutes of Health say that 500 million people (of all ages and backgrounds) around the world have urinary incontinence

So, don’t think of this as something you must suffer with in silence and isolation. There are support groups, online and real-world, as well as books, websites, and other resources to use to feel a bit better about this change in your body’s behaviors.

However, before you resign yourself to urinary incontinence, there is another thing to know, and it may be responsible for greatly improving your health and quality of life. It is that:

  • Urinary incontinence is most often a symptom and NOT a condition. It is usually caused by something else.

This means that you must get in touch with a physician at the first sign of urinary incontinence to allow them to help you identify the “type” of incontinence. Why? Because this is often an indicator of the underlying cause.

The different types of urinary incontinence include:

  • Stress
  • Urge
  • Mixed
  • Overflow
  • Functional
  • Temporary

Each of these types of urinary incontinence is caused by an array of different conditions and issues. They can even occur simultaneously, with stress and urge being quite commonly experienced. It is important to address the causes because they can be as simple as muscle weakening or aging, but might also be linked to neurological issues, cancer, disease, infection and more.

Identifying the type and cause then enables you to begin receiving treatment and taking steps to feel more comfortable with the condition. Again, this is where knowledge becomes power. How? This is yet another important point to know about improving your quality of life with urinary incontinence, and it is that:

  • Your individual incontinence requirements can be mapped out. This can enable you to get it under control, and in turn, restore your quality of life to what it was before symptoms interfered. From the ongoing costs of your incontinence supplies (if needed) to the different exercises, treatment options, and steps you will take, knowing what to do, making plans and taking action is far better for your quality of life and mental well-being than simply resigning yourself to the issue.

It is important to keep in mind that treatment plans may actually alleviate or reduce symptoms. As an example of this, a man or woman with stress incontinence may find that learning how to properly exercise their pelvic floor muscles may be able to strengthen them enough to regain full control or reduce leakage. They might also use bladder training and timed fluid intake to regulate their bladder function to the most controllable level possible. This can help them learn when they will experience potential incontinence and take steps to address the situation.

Medications are also an option and surgical remedies may be able to reduce or eradicate the symptom. As we already noted, incontinence supplies will also make a world of difference, including specialty undergarments, devices for men and women, deodorants, skin care products, and many other types of pads and shields. These can be selected based on need and often worn or used discreetly enough not to interfere with everyday activities and even more athletic activities.

As one physician said, “If you’re experiencing incontinence problems, there really is no need to suffer alone. Your doctor can help you find a solution, which will get you back to living the kind of life you’ve been avoiding because of your incontinence.” However, it does take that first step – getting medical attention – and then you can get on with life!

Cindie Hood is a Product Manager at AllegroMedical.com with a core focus on products that help active aging adults and caregivers.