Be honest… Have you ever leaked urine — even just a little bit — sneezing or laughing too hard? It’s highly likely that many of you have, with an increasing number of over-60s experiencing some degree of urinary incontinence.
It’s a condition that affects up to 4 million Australians and around 37 per cent of Aussie women.
Treatment for the condition can vary depending on the type of incontinence, the severity and the underlying cause. You might even require a combination of treatment. This could include bladder training, scheduled toilet trips, fluid and diet management.
Your bladder leakage might be brought on by poor bladder habits or something else. You might go to the bathroom when there is really no need to do so, which puts a strain on your bladder muscle and cause it to spasm before the bladder is full. It means that your bladder becomes less likely to hold a normal quantity of urine, which can be further reduced the older you get.
Things like nerve damage, Parkinson’s disease, stones, a urinary tract infection or a prolapse can cause bladder leakage too.
Pelvic floor exercises are a great way to train your bladder and help relieve the leakage. However, to get the most out of the exercises it’s important you do them properly. If you’ve ever tried to stop the flow of urine during a trip to the toilet you’ll know what your pelvic floor muscles feel like. If you want to strengthen those muscles, sit comfortably and try squeezing the muscles 10-15 times in a row. Don’t hold your breath or tighten your stomach, buttocks or thighs while doing the exercises.
It could be a couple of months before you see an improvement through pelvic floor exercises.
Read more: Bladder problems you face in your 60s
Avoid lifting because it puts a strain on your pelvic floor muscles. If you do have to lift something, like the shopping bags from the boot of your car, be sure to practise tightening your pelvic flood before and during the lift.
Cut down on alcohol and/or caffeine as both of these things irritate your bladder and can make your leakage worse. Coffee is particularly bad, but some teas, softdrinks, foods and even medications contain caffeine. As for alcohol, it’s a diuretic so it’ll make you wee more often.
Instead, try upping you intake of water. This is a tricky one because many people believe that the more fluid you drink the worse your incontinence gets, but it is actually the reverse — not drinking enough reduces your bladder’s capacity.
Eat right which might involve avoiding spicy foods or acidic foods. Curries and even citrus can irritate your bladder and make leakage worse.
It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you have any concerns about your toilet habits.
Incontinence needs to be checked out if it persists. You can also call the free National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66), which is staffed by continence nurses who can provide confidential advice or refer you to your nearest continence service.