We think chances are good that all of us have believed at least one incontinence myth. Our top ten list contains some widely accepted - but totally wrong - statements. But why so much confusion?
Bladder leaks are embarrassing and most of us don’t want to talk about them. This triggers lots of assumptions and misinformation. If you or a loved one has experienced incontinence symptoms, then it’s time to get some facts and debunk some of those myths you’ve likely heard and maybe even believed!
Incontinence Myth #1: It’s Inevitable with Age
While aging increases your risk for developing incontinence, age itself isn’t the cause. Many people who live well into their nineties and beyond retain full control over their bladder. Thinking that urinary incontinence is “normal” because you’re over 50 might keep you from seeking viable treatments for bladder leaks.
If you discuss your symptoms with your doctor or urologist, she can help you determine underlying causes. In many cases, symptoms can improve or even resolve with proper treatment. You might learn that you have a pelvic organ prolapse, a weakened pelvic floor, or an underlying health condition, but in each case, it’s important to address the problem early.
Incontinence Myth #2: Only Elderly People Develop Urinary Incontinence
Sure, you’re more likely to develop bladder leaks as you age, but women of any age can develop incontinence symptoms.
The most common causes of urine leaks in younger women include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Strenuous or frequent exercise (female athletes)
Many female athletes have exceptional abdominal strength that can create more pressure than the pelvic floor muscles can resist. As your pelvic floor muscles tighten around the urethral sphincter to stop the flow of urine during exercise, the abdominal muscles are simultaneously exerting downward pressure on the bladder. This can lead to urine leaks during exercise if your pelvic floor is overpowered. Additionally, some female athletes experience pelvic floor fatigue, which means they have overworked the muscles during training. Overly exerted, weakened muscles can no longer hold back the flow of urine.
Pregnancy and post-delivery incontinence affect many younger women. When you’re pregnant, the little bundle of joy takes up a lot of space in your abdomen, crowding and pressing on your bladder (stress incontinence). This often leads to increased urgency and frequency, but sometimes the heightened pressure causes leaks. Additionally, pregnancy and vaginal deliveries weaken the pelvic floor muscles, sometimes to the point of incontinence.
As you approach middle age, it’s not uncommon to experience bladder leaks because of hormonal changes during menopause or after having a hysterectomy.
Incontinence Myth #3: A Small Bladder Causes Leaks
It’s extremely rare for a person to have a bladder that’s notably smaller than average. So bladder size isn’t responsible for most people’s incontinence. However, your bladder might not hold as much urine as it did in the past. The typical adult bladder holds about two cups of liquid, but if your bladder muscles lose elasticity and can’t stretch enough to hold this amount, then you’ll need to urinate more frequently. Sometimes this leads to an overactive bladder and even incontinence.
If your bladder must work harder to expel urine, then over time the wall thickens, and muscles lose elasticity. Chronic inflammation, benign tumor growths, or cancer are common causes of bladder wall thickening and the associated leaks.
Incontinence Myth #4: Drinking Less Stops Leaks
Dehydration can irritate the bladder, which increases pain and urgency. If you want a healthy bladder, then drink plenty of water in small servings throughout the day. This will improve your symptoms while preventing bladder infections and irritations. It’s also best to refrain from drinking at least two hours before bed to curb nighttime leaks.
Remember that an irritated bladder is often a leaky one, so try limiting or avoiding alcohol, citrus juices, caffeine, and carbonated beverages. Many people find that when it comes to incontinence, it’s less about how much they drink and more about what they drink.
Incontinence Myth #5: Incontinence Is a Permanent Condition
Incontinence isn’t equivalent to an incurable disease. It’s a secondary condition that is often treatable when underlying causes are addressed (see myth #1). It’s also common for some people to experience “temporary incontinence” due to a urinary tract infection, certain medications, a prostate infection (or inflammation), or pregnancy.
But even if you have long-term bladder leaks due to a chronic medical condition like diabetes, appropriate treatments and management of the primary condition can significantly improve or eliminate symptoms. Your doctor can help you navigate treatment options and assess your long-term prognosis. It’s not necessarily a permanent condition.
Incontinence Myth #6: Everyone Will Know You Wear Incontinence Products
The truth is – no one has to know! When you find the best-fitting product that meets your needs, you won’t have to waste another minute worrying. More than likely, some of your peers wear “adult diapers”, incontinence underwear, or incontinence pads without you ever knowing.
Tye Medical’s LivDry products are designed to be discreet while keeping you comfortable and protected. Our light incontinence products include low-rise underwear that is 50% thinner than most other incontinence underwear brands. And you can guard against most light bladder leaks with our Ultra-Thin Pads that are not only discreet but also offer odor control technology.
For moderate to heavy leak protection, you’ll still get the discretion and protection you need. Both our Premium Briefs and Protective Underwear feel like cloth. You won’t need to endure stiff, plasticky undergarments that make you feel self-conscious. Even odors aren’t a concern because our Super Absorbent Gel Core locks them away, keeping you fresh and dry. To save more time and money, consider using our two-piece system.
Incontinence Myth #7: You Can’t Prevent Incontinence – It Just Happens
You absolutely can be proactive about bladder health and prevent incontinence. When you take care of your general health, you’re less likely to develop primary conditions that affect your bladder. Additionally, you can limit certain risk factors by maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking (or by quitting).
More targeted incontinence prevention includes:
- Practicing regular pelvic floor exercises
- Avoiding bladder irritants like alcohol, caffeine, and acidic food
- Preventing constipation (promotes incontinence)
- Allowing urine to flow freely when using the toilet (don’t push)
- Urinating only when your bladder is full (don’t pee “just in case”)
- Not holding urine too long
Incontinence Myth #8: Small Leaks Are Normal
No bladder leakage is normal, so it’s important not to downplay the condition. Often, people brush it off because symptoms increase gradually. Since incontinence doesn’t happen suddenly or become severe, they think it’s “okay” or “normal” to endure small leaks. When this happens, underlying conditions can be overlooked, and preventative measures aren’t considered.
If you’re tempted to dismiss light incontinence, remember that you can’t replace your bladder. Your quality of life depends on its health and proper function. So, if something is not right, talk to your doctor.
Incontinence Myth #9: Men Rarely Experience Urine Leaks
Depending on the source, about 3-5 million men in the U.S. struggle with some form of incontinence. Many men with enlarged prostates (BPH) have urinary frequency, urgency, or stress incontinence. Doctors recommend surgery when the symptoms become severe enough to warrant the risks or for cases of prostate cancer.
It’s not uncommon for men to experience temporary incontinence symptoms after prostate surgery but some men continue having symptoms a year after surgery. Typically, this is due to a complication during the procedure, such as damage to the urinary sphincter or disruption of muscles that support the prostate and bladder.
Diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease (which also affect women) contribute to male incontinence.
Incontinence Myth #10: Kegels Only Work for Women
Even though women are most likely to hear about the benefits of Kegels for bladder health, they work for men too! Forgive us for generalizing, but more women than men are proactive about their health. By default, women are more likely to pick up on the wisdom of Kegels. Additionally, pregnancy and childbirth put women at greater risk for pelvic floor dysfunction, which means they’re far more likely to hear about Kegel exercises from the medical world.
However, men need to consider regular Kegel exercises for their prostate health as well as their bladder and bowel health. But if that doesn’t pique male interest, then perhaps the impact of Kegels on sexual function will motivate them.
Some men find that Kegels improve erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation while enhancing orgasms. How can these simple exercises provide all these benefits for men? Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that help increase blood flow to the groin – and they are active muscles during sexual intercourse.
Be Proactive About Bladder Health
As you work toward increased general health, don’t forget about your bladder! Record your symptoms, consult reputable resources, and discuss problems with your doctor. At the very least, bladder leaks are manageable. Do your best to find the right incontinence products for your needs. We recommend starting with our LivDry brand!