Urge Incontinence: Care Instructions

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Urge incontinence is the accidental leaking of urine. It most often occurs when a person has a sudden, strong urge to urinate and can't get to the toilet in time. And some people may leak urine without warning.

Urge incontinence may be caused by blockage to the bladder outlet (such as from an enlarged prostate). It can also be caused by an overactive bladder. This makes a person feel the need to urinate often. Causes of urge incontinence include age-related changes, medical conditions such as stroke, and the side effects from medicines.

Treatments can help. They include pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegels), lifestyle changes (like losing weight and managing fluid intake), and bladder training. Medicines may also help. They include topical estrogen therapy and medicines that relax the muscles in the prostate and bladder. In some cases, surgery or other procedures may be needed.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Limit caffeine, fizzy drinks, and alcohol. They make you urinate more.
  • Keep a bladder diary. This can help with bladder training. You can find bladder diary forms and instructions for bladder training online. Or ask your doctor for them.
  • Try pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises. These tighten and strengthen pelvic muscles. (If doing these exercises causes pain, stop doing them and talk with your doctor.) To do Kegel exercises:
    • Squeeze your muscles as if you were trying not to pass gas. Or squeeze your muscles as if you were stopping the flow of urine. Your belly, legs, and buttocks shouldn't move.
    • Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, then relax for 5 to 10 seconds.
    • Start with 3 seconds, then add 1 second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds.
    • Repeat the exercise 10 times a session. Do 3 to 8 sessions a day.
  • Wear pads that absorb the leaks. This may help for a while. Pads designed to absorb urine work best.
  • Keep skin in the genital area dry. Petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) spread on the area may help protect your skin.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new urinary symptoms. These may include leaking urine, having pain when urinating, or feeling like you need to urinate often.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.