How to Treat Bladder Problems

Embarrassed About Bladder Problems?

No one likes to talk about it, but incontinence is common. Here’s what you can do to minimize accidents and how your doctor can help.

incontinenceTake Charge

Don’t let fear of bladder accidents keep you from an active life filled with work, friends, and family. Incontinence isn’t a normal part of aging, or something you just have to live with. There are plenty of things you can do. The sooner you call your doctor, the faster you can get treated.

First Steps

It’s not easy to talk about incontinence. That’s why women wait, on average, 6 years before they get help. Take the first step and call your doctor. He might refer you to a specialist who treats urinary conditions. At your first visit, ask if your diet, health problems, or medicine could be causing the problem.

What Type of Incontinence Is It?

Before your doctor can treat it, he needs to know what kind it is. If you release urine when you cough, laugh, or sneeze, that’s likely stress incontinence. If you have a sudden need to go before leakage happens, that’s probably urge incontinence. Some people have a combination of the two.

Your Doctor Visit: What to Expect

He’ll examine you and ask about your health, symptoms, medicines you take, and the type of accidents you have. He might suggest you keep a diary to record every time you go to the bathroom or have wetness.

Tests to Diagnose Incontinence

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and rule out any other medical conditions. He may order tests to check for infections or other problems, as well as a bladder stress test.

Kegel Exercises

Squeezing muscles you already use several times a day can help prevent leaks. Kegel exercises work the ones in your pelvis that you use to start and stop the flow of pee. 

To do a Kegel, squeeze and hold for about 10 seconds. Then release. Do about 10 sets three to five times a day. It may take up to 3 months before you notice a change.

Retrain Your Bladder

Want more control? Schedule your bathroom visits at regular intervals — for instance, every 2 hours. If you have to go before the time is up, use Kegels or relaxation techniques to hold it in until the urge passes. After a while, you’ll train yourself to go less often, with longer and longer periods between restroom breaks.


Drugs can treat urges related to overactive bladder. Some control its contractions, others keep it relaxed. Side effects may include dry mouth, fatigue, and blurred vision.

Other Treatments

Women can insert a pessary device into the vagina that helps control leakage.

Another option: Doctors can inject collagen and other bulking substances to thicken tissues around the bladder neck and narrow the opening.

You could also consider getting sling or suspension surgery, which lifts the urethra and bladder neck back into place. For urge incontinence, painless nerve stimulation can stop your body from telling you your bladder is full.

Pick Your Protection

You can buy products designed for bladder protection in stores and online. You’ll find disposable and reusable versions. Some are specially fitted for men or women.

For light to moderate wetness, a liner or pad that attaches to your underwear may be all you need. Fitted briefs or protective underwear can handle more liquid.

Get Back Out Into the World

A few routine changes can help prevent leaks and get you back to your favorite activities. Don’t stop drinking fluids — you’ll get dehydrated. Limit each drink to 6 to 8 ounces, and don’t have them within 2 to 4 hours of bedtime.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners, which increase the urge to go. If you’re overweight, drop a few pounds to ease pressure on your bladder. And don’t smoke. It’s bad for your bladder, too.

Treatment for Men

Men can become incontinent after an illness or injury, or when an enlarged prostate gland  blocks the regular flow of urine from the bladder. Like women, men can often get relief with bladder retraining, lifestyle changes, and Kegels.

Medications can help relax or shrink the prostate if that’s the problem. Your doctor may also suggest surgery, like artificial sphincters or male slings, which support the urethra and keep it closed when necessary.

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Is an Overactive Bladder Disrupting Your Life?

incontinenceCauses of Overactive Bladder

Living with overactive bladder — also called OAB — can be a challenge, with the urge to urinate occurring often and suddenly. It can be doubly frustrating when you don’t know what causes overactive bladder. You’re not alone: As many as one in six adults over age 40 may have symptoms of OAB.

When and Why Overactive Bladder Happens

Overactive bladder happens when the muscles of the bladder involuntarily contract more frequently and at inappropriate times.

Your mind reads those contractions as an urgent need to urinate. If you have “dry” OAB, you’ll make it to the bathroom on time but it can cause a lot of worry and anxiety. If you have the “wet” form of overactive bladder, you may not always make it without leaking urine (urge incontinence).

Most of the time, doctors don’t know what causes this mix up between your bladder and your brain with OAB.

What Else Could It Be?

There are also other reasons people need to go to the bathroom more often than usual or feel like they have to go. They could be:

  • Side effects from medications, especially diuretics (water pills) and drugs with caffeine
  • Urinary tract infection or other causes of bladder irritation
  • Pregnancy or recent delivery
  • Neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
  • Tumors or other abnormalities in the bladder such as bladder cancer
  • Inflammation of the prostate or prostate cancer in men
  • Nerve damage caused by surgery, injury, or disease (such as diabetes)

The Link Between Overactive Bladder and Other Health Problems

You should know that if you have overactive bladder and urinary incontinence, you may also be more likely to have some other health issues. These include:

  • Urinary tract and skin infections
  • Being at risk for falls with fractures, if you’re a senior citizen

If you wake up from sleep two or more times a night having to go to the bathroom, this is called nocturia. Besides poor sleep, nocturia has been linked to fatigue, low energy, a harder time performing day-to-day activities, and a reduced quality of life. 

Depression has also been linked to OAB, especially among people with urge incontinence without a known cause.

It is important to talk to your health care provider about all symptoms you may be having — even if you think they seem unrelated to your condition. That can help him or her keep an eye out for other issues.

© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.