A lecture hall, the theater, a ballgame: if the setting is crowded,
incontinence is a hassle. Many people avoid those events. Others get crafty in
devising their exit plans.
"People can be very strategic," says Roger Dmochowski, MD, a
urologist and director of the Vanderbilt Continence Center in Nashville, Tenn.
"It's amazing how good some people are at estimating their bladder problem.
They have a fairly good idea of the time frame they're working with. They try
to make it through the challenging period."
Recent research estimates that more than 4 million people in the U.S. suffer from symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic bladder condition. For most of them, staying close to a bathroom is a necessity. On average, a healthy adult urinates no more than seven times a day and seldom needs to get up at night to use the bathroom. Someone with a severe case of IC, on the other hand, may urinate as frequently as 60 times in 24 hours, including multiple nighttime trips to the bathroom.
What doctors call "bladder training" is a good idea in taming urge
incontinence, says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Urogynecology at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "It means taking a toilet trip
every three to four hours on a regular basis. One caution -- don't start
emptying your bladder every hour. That just encourages overactive bladder and
Your Strategy for Handling Incontinence
Carefully select your fluids. "Many people dehydrate
themselves," Dmochowski tells WebMD. That’s never a good idea. So take a
careful look at which fluids cause problems more often. "Some have more
problems with caffeinated products or alcohol, so they avoid them or cut back
-- and that certainly can help." This includes coffee and carbonated drinks
Avoid problem foods. At dinner before the performance -- or at the
ball field -- keep meals on the mild side. Spicy and high-acid foods (like
citrus fruits and juices) can make urge incontinence worse. Go easy on them to
Map the bathrooms. In any new setting, make this your top priority.
When you buy event tickets, ask for aisle seats near a bathroom. Before taking
your seat, make a visit.
Try a tampon. Whether it's your period or not, a tampon in the vagina
puts pressure on the urethra -- which helps prevent leaks from stress
incontinence, says Vani Dandolu, MD, MPH, a urogynecologist with Temple
University School of Women in Philadelphia.
Wear a pessary. This is a round object that is worn in the vagina,
and prevents leakage. It is a nonsurgical approach to treating incontinence
related to uterine prolapse and stress incontinence. A doctor can fit you for a
Wear a good pad. A good-quality incontinence pad can help you get
through the event safely. Pads fit comfortably under a normal (not tight) pair
of pants or skirt. If that doesn't seem like enough, move on to incontinence
products like disposable protective underwear. They're a bit bulkier, but will
keep you dry through the event.
Dress in classic black. Black hides everything. Stand for cheers or
ovations without worrying what people behind you are thinking. Any leaks or
overflows won't show.
Pack a small bag. A few items you might need: an extra incontinence
pad, odor neutralizing spray, and a small fragrance spray. You don't want to
overdo with fragrance, but a spritz might be nice. Also, moist towelettes can
help you feel fresh.
Take incontinence medications. Medicine can help some people with
urge incontinence. Start taking your medication a few days before the event.
The longer it is in your bloodstream, the better effect it will have.
SOURCES: Roger Dmochowski, MD, urologist; director, Vanderbilt Continence
Center, Nashville, Tenn. May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Urogynecology
at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Vani Dandolu, MD, MPH,
urogynecologist, Temple University School of Women, Philadelphia. WebMD
Feature: "6 Ways Diet Worsens Urinary Incontinence."