Constantly running to the toilet? You may have a weak bladder?
Around 38 per cent of Australian women suffer from a condition known as weak bladder. And while it's quite common for people, particularly women, to feel like they are constantly running to the toilet, that doesn't mean that it's normal or can't be treated.
Urinary incontinence is the medical term for a weak bladder. There are several types of urinary incontinence, each with its own tell-tale signs and treatment approaches.
Stress incontinence is when someone experiences a urine leak when they cough, laugh or sneeze. It can also happen with any high impact activities.
Urge incontinence is when you feel an overwhelming need to urinate suddenly - even when your bladder isn't full. This result is urine leakage before you manage to get to the toilet.
Overflow incontinence occurs when you have urine leakage (known as dribbling) because your bladder is too full.
Sometimes this is a result of weak bladder muscles, and may also occur when there is an inability to fully empty your bladder, known as urinary retention.
There are other medical conditions that may cause incontinence, but the good news is that you don't need to suffer in silence.
Incontinence can almost always be treated and there are some simple steps you can take, with the help of the right health professional, to get you on your way.
Talking with your GP is always a good place to start with any health concern, and many GPs regularly help women with urinary incontinence.
Some women prefer to start with a non-medical approach, and that's where a pelvic floor physiotherapist can really help.
This expert group of specially-trained physiotherapists can help you identify the type of incontinence you are experiencing, and guide you through a set of lifestyle changes and exercises that have been proven to help women with bladder weakness.
If lifestyle modifications and exercise aren't able to control your bladder leakage, ask your GP for a referral to a gynaecologist with expertise in the female urinary system, known as a urogynaecologist.
These specialists can discuss a range of medical or even surgical approaches to treating incontinence. The key is not to ignore your symptoms - seek help early for best results.
Check your fluids - simply reducing your fluid intake may help. If night-time incontinence is a bother, limit your fluids four hours before bed time.
Cut the caffeine - drinking caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee and cola can trigger your symptoms, so consider switching to caffeine-free alternatives.
Weight - is your weight getting in the way?
Weight loss of 5 to 8 per cent among overweight and obese people has been shown to improve urinary incontinence by up to 40 per cent.
Find the right physio - look for a continence and pelvic floor physiotherapists who are specially trained to help women to manage incontinence and pelvic floor problems. Speak to your Urogynaecologist or GP if you needed a referral.
See your GP - if you are not able to manage your bladder weakness with simple lifestyle measures of diet and exercise, your GP can help, or ask for a referral to a urogynaecologist.
There are several medical approaches that can give excellent results.
Seek help - the most important tip is that if bladder weakness is bothering you, don't feel you need to put up with it. The earlier you seek help, the better your outcomes are likely to be.
For more information, go to Continence Foundation of Australia at https://www.continence.org.au/
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