Urinary Incontinence and Men: Tips for Coping Day to Day
If you're a male who's dealing with urinary incontinence, you definitely need to get medical help. But while you and your doctor are figuring out how to solve the problem, there are things you can do on your own that might improve your symptoms. Here are some tips to help you deal with male incontinence:
Try bladder training. Some men find they can train themselves to control their urinary incontinence. Here's one approach: start taking scheduled bathroom breaks whether you have the urge or not. Once you start gaining control, you can extend the times between trips to the bathroom. Start by spacing bathroom breaks a little further apart. With some conscious effort, you may be able to tame your symptoms and only have to urinate every three or four hours. Keep in mind you may not see immediate results from bladder training. But if you stay with it, you should realize the full benefit within a few months.
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Flex your muscles. Some men think of Kegels -- or pelvic floor exercises -- as more of a woman's thing. But they can also help men strengthen the muscles around the bladder. You do have to make sure you're flexing the right muscle; exercising the wrong ones could actually increase the pressure on your bladder. One approach is to squeeze the muscles you would use to stop yourself from passing gas; those are the ones to focus on.
Here's how you do it:
Tense the muscles for three seconds and then relax them for three seconds. Build up slowly until you're doing three sets of ten repetitions; altogether, it should take about 15 minutes a day. You can really do Kegels anywhere -- in bed, while urinating, at your office desk, or watching TV. It may take about three to six weeks before Kegel exercises for men have the effect you want. But most men actually notice results sooner.
Keep a diary. For a few days at least, keep track of how much you drink, how often you have to use the bathroom, and how often you have leaking. Note anything in particular that might have triggered the symptoms, such as bending over in a certain way or drinking too much coffee. Your urinary incontinence diary will give your doctor a much better sense of how bad your symptoms are and how they're affecting your life. The diary can help determine which tests are needed to make the right diagnosis.
Try double-voiding. When you finish urinating, wait a minute, and then try again. Doing this can reduce dribble afterwards.
Cut down on alcohol and caffeine. Many experts believe that alcohol and caffeine may irritate the bladder, stimulate urine production and worsen urinary incontinence symptoms. Cut out the coffee, tea, sodas, and alcohol to see if it makes a difference.
Avoid foods that trigger symptoms. Some men find that certain foods trigger urinary incontinence problems. Spicy and acidic foods -- like citrus fruits and tomatoes -- are common culprits. Others include chocolate and artificial sweeteners. But everyone's different. You may find that only a few, if any, of these foods have an effect.
Stop smoking. If you need another reason to quit, here it is: There's evidence that tobacco may aggravate urinary tract symptoms in men.
Space out your fluids. Some men say that staggering their fluid intake can help ease urinary incontinence. If you have a lot of problems at night, drinking less before bed might help.
Stay hydrated. A lot of men are tempted to cut way down on the fluids that they drink in the hope that it will prevent accidents. But it's actually a bad idea. If you drink less, the urine becomes more concentrated. The more concentrated the urine, the more irritating to the bladder -- which can lead to more urinary incontinence, not less.
Lose some weight. Some experts think that excess weight may increase pressure in the abdomen and worsen urinary incontinence. So if you're overweight, try to shed a few pounds.
Treat constipation. There's some evidence that constipation -- and the straining that goes along with it -- can have a negative effect on the nerves that play a role in urinary continence. It's possible that by treating your constipation -- with a high-fiber diet, for instance -- you may also help your incontinence symptoms.
Watch out for medication side effects. Make sure your doctor knows about every medicine and dietary supplement you use. Some can cause or worsen urinary incontinence. Antidepressants, sedatives, diuretics, and even cold and allergy medicines are some of the offenders.
Plan ahead. A lot of guys dealing with male incontinence get very stressed out when they have to travel. So, try to ease your anxiety by being prepared. If you're going on a road trip, map out the route and find places you can stop at regular intervals to use the bathroom. Knowing you have a plan will make you feel more confident.
Get support. Living with male incontinence can be stressful and isolating. So make a real effort to stay connected with your friends and family. You might also benefit from a support group. Ask your doctor if there are any in your area.
Keep in mind that these techniques may help, but they're not always enough. More serious male incontinence will likely need medical help. If your symptoms are really affecting your life, and the techniques above don't seem to help, talk to your doctor. With the right treatment, most cases of male incontinence can be completely resolved.