Help For A Leaky Bladder
Colleen Shannon, our Health Writer, discovers there’s a lot you can do about this common problem.
ARE you nervous about sneezing, coughing or having a laugh because it might cause an embarrassing accident? These are some of the times when your bladder can leak, if you have a condition called stress incontinence.
Even though it’s very common, many women wait years before they seek help from a health professional. Some never mention it to anyone, and soldier on alone.
This is unfortunate because there are many ways to improve the symptoms and have a better quality of life.
This is what I heard from Emma Chappel, a Benign Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist and a member of council for the British Association of Urological Nurses (BAUN).
With stress incontinence, leaks can also occur when you are walking, running or lifting something heavy. It can be anything from just a few drops to a stream.
It happens because the muscles supporting the bladder and around the urine tube (urethra) have weakened. This can be due to physical changes like pregnancy and childbirth, the menopause, or some types of surgery. Being overweight also puts pressure on the muscles.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, your GP can help. They can refer you to a hospital specialist if this is needed.
Or you may be able to attend an NHS continence clinic, which is run by nurses like Emma. Depending on where you live, this might require a GP referral, or you might be able to refer yourself.
Physiotherapists who specialise in women’s health can also help with stress incontinence.
The first thing your health professional might recommend is keeping a bladder diary, recording what you drink, how much, and when you visit the loo.
If your fluid intake is too low, or too high, adjusting this to the right level can help. Caffeine stimulates the bladder, so you might be advised to limit tea and coffee.
The bladder can also be trained, by sticking to a recommended schedule for using the toilet.
Losing weight can ease the pressure on your bladder, if this is a problem.
Your GP, nurse or physiotherapist can also explain how to do pelvic floor exercises, which strengthen the muscles that support your bladder.
If these steps are not enough, some people take medication, or have surgery or other procedures to fix the problem.
Alongside your treatment and lifestyle changes, you may decide to use pads to stay dry. You may be able to get these supplied free on an NHS prescription.
You can find more information from the British Association of Urological Surgeons at www.baus.org.uk/patients and on the NHS website at www.nhs.uk.
If you are having bladder probems, please don’t be embarrassed to ask for help from a health professional. There are many options and you might be surprised how much your confidence and everyday life can be improved. n
There’s no need to suffer in silence