Many of us have been there before: laughing or sneezing and we feel a bit of wetness. It’s never pleasant to admit you have light bladder leakage (LBL) but it’s surprisingly common. One in three women who’ve ever had a baby will leak urine, and this ratio increases to one in two once they reach 50. Men too, particularly after the age of 65, are at risk of incontinence as a result of enlarged prostates.
In total, there are about 4.8 million adult Australians affected by incontinence, making it more prevalent that asthma (2 million), arthritis (3.1 million) and anxiety disorders (2.3 million).
Light bladder leakage can have serious impacts on our social lives, personal relationships and even sexual function. However, it is treatable in the majority of cases.
What is LBL?
LBL, or Light Bladder Leakage, is involuntary bladder loss and can occur due to your Oestrogen levels dropping, affecting the elasticity of your pelvic floor muscles and the tissues supporting your bladder and the lining of your urethra. Prolapse is another condition that can bring about LBL.
Other causes of LBL can relate to any surgery you may have had on your pelvic floor, say continence product company Poise. It can also occur as a result of medical issues within your body such as infections in the bladder or kidneys, a thyroid disorder or a neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease.
Understanding and identifying what triggers are causing your light bladder leakage will help you manage and improve your bladder problems.
LBL triggers can include:
- Coughing, sneezing, laughing, vigorous exercise or activity
- Excessive fluid intake
- Drinking coffee, tea
- Pelvic floor surgery
There are a few other things we can do to help prevent LBL:
• Drink well
Avoid drinking too much fluid or too little. The rule is simple; drink to satisfy your thirst. Too much will over-stretch your bladder and too little will concentrate your urine, which can irritate the bladder. A good guide as to how much to drink is the colour of your urine, which should be straw-coloured, and you should “go” between four and eight times a day.
• Get into good bladder and bowel habits
Go to the toilet when you feel the need to urinate. Don’t get into the habit of waiting till you’re busting or going “just in case”, unless it’s just before bedtime.
You should always respond to the urge to open your bowel. The ideal time to “go” is when you feel the gastro-colic reflux, a mass movement of contents along the bowel, which usually happens about 20 minutes after a meal, usually most strongly felt after breakfast. Avoid “holding on” because you risk constipation, as the stool continues to dry out and harden in the colon.
• Do your pelvic floor exercises
About half of us don’t follow written instructions properly, so either ask a continence physio or nurse, or watch one of several good videos on the subject. continence.org.au is a good place to start.
• Seek professional help
Incontinence is not normal and needs to be checked out if it persists. A good first port of call is 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.