Incontinence refers to the difficulty in controlling excretory functions such as urination and defecation. It can be a huge problem when you’re in the company of other people, and you suddenly feel the urge to urinate. Worse, you could suddenly feel the urge to defecate, and then you have bigger problems to worry about. There are many ways to get rid of incontinence, or at least control it, so you can live better and be more confident.
Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence
There are two types of incontinence: urinary and fecal. Urinary incontinence is the inability to control your bladder, resulting in urination in the inappropriate setting. Urinary incontinence however, is not an illness in itself but a symptom of another illness, which could be relatively simple or dangerous. Consult your doctor immediately if you have the following symptoms:
- Stress incontinence: Stress incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or lift something heavy. It usually has more to do with weak bladder muscles than psychological issues. The problem often occurs when your bladder is full, and is more common in women than in men. Menopause, childbirth, and pregnancy can all cause the condition. Men, on the other hand, may suffer from stress incontinence when they have their prostate glands removed.
- Urge incontinence: Urge incontinence is more disruptive than stress incontinence because once you feel the need to urinate, you only have a few seconds to reach a toilet before you involuntarily release urine. People with urge incontinence also urinate more frequently; and they usually wake up repeatedly each night just to urinate. Some people who have this condition can’t help but urinate when they hear the sound of running water. There are many possible causes of urge incontinence, including urinary tract infection (UTI), nervous system damage, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.
Symptoms of Fecal Incontinence
If you can’t control your bowel movements, then you may have fecal incontinence. Fecal incontinence is characterized by unexpected leaking of stools. Sometimes, the person also involuntarily passes gas, or completely loses control of his bowel control. Diarrhea, constipation, and nerve or muscle damage can all cause this condition. Additionally, fecal incontinence often comes with abdominal cramps and gas bloating.
Medical Treatment for Urinary Incontinence
Urinary or fecal incontinence must be treated quickly because the patient might suffer psychological trauma if he frequently urinates or defecates in the presence of others. There are many medical treatments for urinary incontinence, some relatively simple, while others are invasive. The following are your treatment options if you have urinary incontinence:
Kegel Exercises: Strengthening pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises helps to reduce or cure urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises improve your bladder tone, so you’ll have greater control of your urinary function. You can do Kegel exercises any time and anywhere without anyone knowing. Follow these instructions to do Kegel exercises properly:
- Try to contract the muscles you use to stop urinating while you’re lying or sitting down. You should feel the muscles squeezing your anus and urethra. You’re not doing it properly if your buttocks and stomach tighten.
- Squeeze for three seconds, and then relax for another three seconds.
- Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times per session, and do it thrice a day. Remember that Kegel exercises only work when you do them regularly. It usually takes eight to 10 weeks before any improvement shows. Kegel exercises become more effective as you do them more frequently.
Consult your doctor if you think you’re not doing the exercises correctly. Some doctors may recommend doing the exercises with a biofeedback, a device that measures muscle tension and conveys information in real-time, so you know if you’re doing the Kegel right.
Medications: Sometimes, physical exercises alone aren’t enough to treat incontinence, especially if you’re not really doing them right. There are several drugs in the market today that can reduce your symptoms. The following medications work more effectively when you combine them with physical exercises:
- Anticholinergic drugs: These medications reduces urge incontinence by relaxing the bladder. One side effect of anticholinergic drugs though, is that your mouth will get dry. You may drink more water to lessen the dryness, but that may cause you to urinate more. Some doctors prescribe sucking candies to induce your mouth to salivate more. Examples of anticholinergic medications include: darifenacin, solifenacin, oxybutynin, tolterodine.
- Antibiotics: Many cases of incontinence are caused by urinary tract infection. If you have UTI, your doctor may ask you to take some antibiotics. Prostatis, the inflammation of the prostate gland, is also treated this way.
- Imipramine: Imipramine is an antidepressant that relaxes the bladder. It’s occasionally used in combination with other drugs to treat incontinence.
Surgery: Doctors normally recommend surgery as a last option for incontinence treatment, if nothing else seems to work. A surgeon can put a misaligned bladder back in place. He may also enlarge the bladder or correct congenital defects. Here are some of the surgical procedures that’s used to treat incontinence.
- Sling procedure: This procedure is the most commonly used surgery for women suffering from stress incontinence. The procedure involves the removal of a piece of abdominal tissue, which is then placed under the urethra. The piece of abdominal tissue compresses the urethra and prevents leaks from occurring.
- Bulking materials: In this procedure, bulking materials are injected into the tissue around the urethra. The process results in the tightening of the sphincter’s seal and the bulking up of other tissues. Bulking materials or agents include synthetic sugars, collagen, and carbon beads.
Medical Treatment for Fecal Incontinence
Like urinary incontinence, the best treatment for fecal incontinence is a combination of medications and physical therapy. The exact cause of the condition must also be determined, because fecal incontinence is oftentimes just a symptom of another illness. Treatment options for fecal incontinence are as follows:
Bowel training: Bowel training involves learning to use the toilet at regular times of the day; for instance, the doctor may recommend that you try to use the toilet after each meal. This helps you gain control of your bowel movement by adjusting your body’s rhythm.
Your doctor may also recommend that you use biofeedback while you’re training. The procedure involves putting a probe into your anus that registers muscle activity and strength. Practicing contractions of the sphincter is easier because you can see the information on the device’s display. Regular exercises strengthen rectal muscles, reducing fecal incontinence.
Medications: It’s advisable to combine bowel training with medications to achieve the best results. Here are some drugs used to treat fecal incontinence:
- Anti-diarrheal medications: These drugs are the quickest solution to diarrhea and unwanted fecal accidents. Loperamide is widely used around the world to reduce diarrhea symptoms.
- Laxatives: Laxatives can restore normal bowel movement if the cause of your fecal incontinence is chronic constipation. Some doctors prescribe milk of magnesia for patients with chronic constipation.
Surgery: Doctors don’t recommend surgery until all simple treatment options have been tried. Surgery is most effective for fecal incontinence caused by physical changes due to pregnancy and childbirth. Some of the surgical procedures used to treat fecal incontinence are as follows:
- Sphincteroplasty: In this procedure, the doctor identifies injured areas of the sphincter and frees its edges from the surrounding tissue. He then sews the edges back together to tighten the sphincter.
- Anal sphincter replacement: The real sphincter can be replaced by an artificial sphincter that inflates and controls defecation. To release the stools, you have to deflate the artificial sphincter using an external pump. The device reinflates itself after about 10 minutes.
- Colostomy: Doctors only consider colostomy when all other treatments have failed. In this procedure, stool is diverted through a hole in the abdomen; and a bag that’s attached to the hole collects the stool.
Consult your doctor immediately if your urinary and fecal incontinence is getting worse. Don’t let your life be ruined by your condition. Get treated as early as possible to have a happier and more productive life.
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