You probably don’t openly talk about incontinence. It’s a topic that, in part because it doesn’t get much airtime, can cause people who suffer from it to feel shame. Speaking up about it allows you to separate incontinence facts from fiction, which helps you fend off shame and realistically address the problem. In the spirit of dispelling intimidating fictions about incontinence, here are five common misconceptions about incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is a symptom of problems including bladder irritation, weakened pelvic muscles or pelvic pressure, and nerve damage (often diabetes related). While incontinence is common in older individuals, it is not a direct product of aging, as many believe. The reason it occurs is because, as you age, you’re more likely to experience a problem like weakened pelvic muscles. There are ways to address these primary concerns as you age, though. Don’t be afraid to try Kegel exercises—these help you strengthen your pelvic floor. Otherwise, you can address bladder irritation through dietary changes or seek out medical advice for a specific incontinence-related issue like diabetes. Incontinence is not inevitable, and you can use these tools to lessen your symptoms.
A second common misconception about incontinence is that people with small bladders suffer from it. There are a host of reasons someone may be incontinent, but there is no connection between loss of control and bladder size. No matter the size of your bladder, incontinence occurs as a result of lost muscle control, irritation, and nerve damage. A small bladder isn’t a factor.
Drinking less water upon experiencing incontinence does not help you go less. In fact, decreasing your water intake concentrates your urine and irritates your bladder. This worsens incontinence symptoms. You should aim to drink around eight ounces with meals. Only cut back your intake two hours before bedtime or if you’re drinking excessive amounts.
Because incontinence is associated with women, men may feel uncomfortable about talking about their incontinence. One study found about 5 percent of men aged 19-44 experience urinary incontinence, while up to 21 percent of men over 65 have symptoms. If you’re a man who suffers from incontinence, it’s important to know that you are not the only man who has this problem. Millions of other men share your experiences. Being more open about your struggles will help you learn how to manage incontinence well.
If your life is affected every day by loss of control, turning to incontinence garments like reusable underwear, fitted briefs, or booster pads doesn’t need to be framed through shame. In reality, these give you more freedom and control over a facet of life you’ve lost control of. Wearing one of these products allows you to travel where you want, engage in activities you typically wouldn’t, and be present with loved ones you previously couldn’t. Once you experience this relief and work to address incontinence in other ways, the freedom gained outweighs the shame you may have felt beforehand.