Bladder problems typically take the form of urinary incontinence (leaking urine) and urinary retention (inability to empty the bladder) and can arise from neurogenic disorders such as spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and spina bifida. Incontinence and retention can also be age related, or result from an underlying physical disease, caused by a dysfunction in the bladder.
Taking care of your bladder
Bladder problems must be properly managed, if left untreated they could result in serious health issues.
There are many options available to help manage bladder problems:
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Bladder retraining
- Collecting devices
- Lifestyle changes
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help reduce urinary incontinence.
- Slowly contract and lift the pelvic floor muscles and hold the position for five seconds, then release
- Quickly contract and release the pelvic floor muscles
You will need to do the exercises regularly and it may take several months before you see a significant improvement.
Bladder retraining to help reduce urinary incontinence aims to gradually stretch the bladder so that it can hold larger volumes of urine.
Clean intermittent catheterisation (CIC) is an effective bladder management technique based on the regular and complete emptying of the bladder by using a catheter. People who catheterise to empty their bladder typically need to do so 4-6 times a day.
Collecting systems (for men)
For men who leak urine (male incontinence), urisheaths are an effective and comfortable solution. The urisheath is worn over the penis and is connected to a urine bag fastened to the leg.
For some people managing symptoms may include lifestyle changes, such as modifying the diet to reduce constipation and reducing the consumption of caffeinated beverages. Timing fluid intake at certain times can also be helpful so the need to urinate is more convenient and doesn’t coincide with excursions in public or sleeping at night.
Drugs are prescribed for all types of incontinence, but they are generally most useful for urge incontinence, particularly when combined with pelvic floor exercises and bladder training. Stress incontinence is usually managed without medication.
A variety of surgical procedures are available for the treatment of bladder problems. Deciding which procedure, if any, you use depends on the type and cause of incontinence.