Incontinence is different from just needing to go to the bathroom. It's a sensitive issue that can cause a range of feelings. It's not a normal part of aging or something you have to just live with. And it can happen to anyone, both men and women, though it is not as common in men.
There are steps you can take to manage your condition and your state of mind. Talk with your doctor so you know what the problem is and can start working on treatment.
by Sari Harrar
Anna Albrecht was a fit 31-year-old mother of two when the Big Leak happened one day. "I was jumping rope at the gym when — splash! — I completely wet my pants," she recalls. "I was so embarrassed." So did Albrecht go to the doctor? "Not for seven years," she admits. "I just didn't jump rope."
The leaks have stopped, thanks to a class aimed at strengthening her pelvic floor — the hammock of muscles that supports the internal organs, including the bladder, bowels, and...
Incontinence makes some people anxious, says Karen Noblett, MD, director of urogynecology at the University of California Irvine. They might stay home or avoid social situations because they're not sure if they're going to have an incontinence "accident."
If that sounds like you, there are two steps you can take: managing the emotions that come with feeling like your body does things you can't control and getting treatment for the medical problem itself.
On the emotional side, you may want to talk with a counselor if your feelings bother you and interfere with your everyday life. You may also want to look into meditation or other relaxing practices that can help when you have a hard day.
It might help to express your feelings at a support group or to visit an online community where there are people who have had similar experiences.
You'll also want to work on the condition itself. Your doctor may suggest you keep a record of your diet, behaviors, and bathroom activities.
"We'll look at how many times you urinate or leak throughout the day and under what circumstances. And from there, we can usually advise women to change certain habits," says Mamta Mamik, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Other treatments include medications, behavioral therapy, biofeedback (which helps you control your urge to go), and several types of implants and shots.
Most people with incontinence don't need surgery. But if you try other treatments and don't get enough benefits, talk to your doctor to discuss your options.