Managing your incontinence
How to choose the right treatment for you
Urinary incontinence treatment comes in a variety of forms and at many different price points. The wide range of products, medication, and surgery options available in the market can make choosing the correct treatment for your needs a challenge. The lifestyle changes and treatment options below are either free, inexpensive, or costly, and will help navigate the best course of action for you.
Lifestyle changes (no cost)
While urinary incontinence can be an inconvenience, it doesn’t have to stop you from living your life. Incontinence can be managed, planned for, and prevented, and you can have an action plan for it if something does go wrong. Some simple lifestyle changes can be the simplest, yet most effective, treatment for this issue.
Plan your toilet breaks
Before you head out, you should always plan your toilet breaks to prevent an accident. Visit the National Public Toilet Map so you're well prepared. You should also schedule toilet trips before, during and after an outing. For example, go before leaving home, on arriving at your destination, before getting in the car to travel between locations, or when there’s a free moment that doesn’t cause interruption. In a 2019 HARTMANN study, over 40% reported they carry extra underwear with them or an emergency kit with spare clothes.
Diet and fluid intake has a dramatic effect on urinary incontinence. Some food and drinks can irritate the bladder and bring on incontinence if not properly managed, while being overweight can be an incontinence contributor for some people.
A fluid diary can help you keep track of your urinary patterns, recording what and when you drink and when you pass urine. This will give you a better idea of what's causing urination and when you tend to urinate more.
Proper diet, exercise and fluid intake will help with incontinence. This means restricting liquids, such as caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, and some sodas), acidic drinks (citrus juice), and alcoholic drinks in general. At the same time, healthy fluid intake is between 1500 and 2000mls a day, which you should space out over the day, while minimizing liquid intake before bed.
Even if exercise makes you leak, it's important to your general health and should never be abandoned. Reduce your exercise’s intensity if it’s causing issues – for example, reduce jogging to walking.
Non-invasive treatment (inexpensive)
Before surgery or medication, you can choose non-invasive incontinence treatment to let you get on with an active, happy life. Non-invasive treatments, such as continence pads and bed protection products, are quite affordable on some occasions subsidized or funded.
Pads fall into two main categories: disposable and washable that come in a range of sizes and absorption capacities. For example, some washable pads can be inserted into your underwear while others are re-useable underpants with built-in pads. On the other hand, disposable pads come in three major groups: shaped pads to place in your underwear, pull-up pants/pads or all-in-one wraparound products called slips.
MoliCare has put together a few tips to select the right style of continence product for you here.
Trying different continence pads and getting first-hand experience as to what works best for you is the best way to discover whether pads will improve your life. After trying some products, you may find the perfect pad or that another type of aid would best suit your needs. You can order free samples on our website molicare.com.au.
Night-time accidents can plague a lot of people with incontinence; however, a range of bedding products is available. For example, waterproof covers can prevent mattress stains and ongoing odours, or bed mats can be laid down each night in case of an emergency.
Pharmaceutical treatment (inexpensive)
Prescription medication can alleviate the symptoms of incontinence, particularly when other treatments have failed. These medicines can reduce the urinary urgency and the number of trips to the bathroom and leakages. However, many kinds of medication exist for a variety of factors, such as your gender and whether it's stress or urge incontinence. Medication will generally be prescribed when pelvic floor exercises have failed, and symptoms persist.
Incontinence medication is not a cure and its effectiveness can vary from person to person. Symptoms are unlikely to diminish from the use of medication alone. Rather a multi-pronged approach with better lifestyle choices, such as more exercise and less diuretic consumption, combined with medication is most effective.
Medicine can take a few weeks before it becomes effective. However, once you have started the treatment, it can’t be stopped immediately; otherwise, you could suffer withdrawal symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Doctors will review your health on incontinence medication every so often and will decide to either continue treatment or wean you off. These medications also come with varying side effects, which may be more troublesome than the incontinence itself. Consult with your doctor if and when they arise.
Some incontinence medications are covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, making them extremely affordable.
Surgery (more costly)
Surgery may provide major relief of incontinence symptoms but it can be prohibitively expensive for some as it is currently not covered under Medicare. Surgery options include sling procedures, such as mid-urethral and rectus fascial slings, colpo-suspension and urethral bulking agents. You should only consider surgery after lifestyle changes and physiotherapy have met no success and you have stress incontinence. Your doctor can advise you further once you’ve exhausted other options.
Alternatively, you could call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 333066 for free for information, advice, and leaflets.
Deciding on your treatment depends on your budget and what suits your lifestyle. However, you should talk to your doctor and experiment with different products to find a solution to your needs before investigating surgery and medication.