Living With Incontinence

Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on February 25, 2024
3 min read

Don’t wait. With a little effort, you can overcome the challenges of a leaky bladder. It can be as easy as a few simple changes in your daily routine.

First, you’ll want to know what’s going on. You might have leakage when you laugh, cough, or sneeze. Doctors call that “stress incontinence.” Or you could feel an unexpected, sudden urge to pee. That’s called “urge incontinence.” Though it happens mostly to women, it can happen to anyone at any age. Although people who have it may not talk about it, it’s more common than you think.

Great news. You have plenty of treatment options, and the outlook is good. About 80% of those who are affected by urinary incontinence can get better with treatment.

Sometimes a simple dietary change, such as cutting back on fluids, is all that is needed.

Try a combination of approaches. For instance, your doctor may recommend that you do Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and to use pads or disposable underwear just in case. Experiment to see what you’re comfortable with that works best for you.

If you need a little more help, your doctor may recommend prescription medication or a surgical procedure. They might suggest “sling surgery,” an operation designed to support the bladder or urethra and prevent leaks.

Plan Ahead
Before you go out, think about the day ahead of you. A little foresight can make living with urinary incontinence less stressful.

For instance, if the stair-climbing machine at your gym makes you leak, try the bicycle instead. If you know you always shop longer than you plan to, consider one of the many urinary incontinence products, such as panty liners or pads.

Know where the bathrooms are when you are out and about, and try to go as often as possible.

Drink Less
It sounds simple, but it might be all you need to make an improvement. Try to limit your daily liquids to around 7 glasses per day. You don’t want to get dehydrated, though. And you do get water from foods, like fruits and vegetables. So start to cut back on how much you drink and see how you do. Your doctor can also suggest how much is enough.

Avoid Your Triggers
Notice which foods and drinks make you need to go, like those that have alcohol and caffeine in them. Spicy foods, high-acid foods such as citrus fruits and juices, and carbonated drinks can also bring about the need to pee.

If you find that your incontinence gets worse after you have any of these, cut back or quit them.

It can be a challenge, but try not to let your condition bring you down. Some people get stressed or depressed, especially with urge incontinence because it’s so unpredictable. Know there are plenty of treatment options available for you to try on your own or with the support of a doctor.

Talk about what’s going with your partner and others close to you. It could make your life easier if they know, and they will want to be there for you. If you and your friends and family focus on solutions, you’ll probably feel better.

If you’re a little shy about talking openly, that’s understandable. There’s support online available. You can find out how people with the same condition have found solutions at the National Association for Continence. You can ask questions on message boards as well as find doctors who specialize in incontinence.