The treatment you receive for stress urinary incontinence will depend on the type of incontinence you have and the severity of your symptoms. If your incontinence is caused by an underlying condition, you may receive treatment for this alongside your incontinence treatment. Conservative treatments, which don’t involve medication or surgery, are tried first. These include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Pelvic floor muscle training
- Bladder training
After this, medication or surgery may be considered.
Your GP may suggest you make simple changes to your lifestyle to improve your symptoms. These changes can help improve your condition, regardless of the type of urinary incontinence you have. For example, your GP may recommend:
- Reducing your caffeine intake – caffeine is found in tea, coffee and cola, and can increase the amount of urine your body produces
- Altering how much fluid you drink a day – Drinking too much or too little can make incontinence worse
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese – Use the healthy weight calculator to find out if you’re a healthy weight for your height
Pelvic Floor Muscle Training
Your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles you use to control the flow of urine as you urinate. They surround the bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder outside the body.
Weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles can cause urinary incontinence, so exercising these muscles is often recommended. Your GP may refer you to a specialist to start a programme of pelvic floor muscle training.
Your specialist will assess whether you are able to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and by how much. If you can contract your pelvic floor muscles, you will be given an individual exercise programme based on your assessment.
Your programme should include doing a minimum of 8 muscle contractions at least 3 times a day and the recommended exercises for at least 3 months. If the exercises are helping after this time, you can keep on doing them.
Research suggests women who complete pelvic floor muscle training experience fewer leaking episodes and report better quality of life. In men, some studies have shown pelvic floor muscle training can reduce urinary incontinence, particularly after surgery to remove the prostate gland.
If you have been diagnosed with incontinence, one of the first treatments you may be offered is bladder training. Bladder training may also be combined with pelvic floor muscle training if you have mixed urinary incontinence. It involves learning techniques to increase the length of time between feeling the need to urinate and passing urine. The course will usually last for at least 6 weeks.
Medication for Stress Incontinence
If stress urinary incontinence doesn’t significantly improve, surgery for urinary incontinence will often be recommended as the next step. However, if you are unsuitable for surgery or want to avoid having an operation, you may benefit from medication. This can help increase the muscle tone of the urethra, which should help keep it closed.
You will need to take this medication by mouth twice a day and will be assessed after two to four weeks to see if the medicine is beneficial or causing any side effects. Possible side effects of stress urinary incontinence medication can include:
- Dry mouth
- Extreme tiredness
Don’t suddenly stop taking incontinence medication, as this can also cause unpleasant side effects. Your GP will reduce your dose gradually. Medication isn’t suitable for everyone, however, so your GP will discuss any other medical conditions you have to determine if you can take it.
If surgery to treat stress urinary incontinence is something you are interested in, why not contact us here at Moorgate to book a consultation.