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How to Manage Urinary Incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is when you accidentally wet yourself (urinate) through loss of bladder control. In Australia, urinary incontinence affects up to 10% of men and up to 38% of women.It can mean leaking a small amount of wee or completely emptying your bladder.  Though it involves leaking only small amounts of urine, LBL can still be embarrassing.  However, you can take steps to manage causes and symptoms and find the right treatment options.

There are several types of urinary incontinence explained below:

  • Light urinary incontinence: Symptoms of light urinary incontinence or light bladder leakage (LBL) can include the loss of small amounts of urine or frequent leaks occurring several times a day. Bladder leakage is urine loss that can be contained within a small, absorbent pad.
  • Stress incontinence: Tiggers include laughing, coughing, sneezing, exercising, or lifting something heavy. These movements put pressure on the bladder and can cause small amounts of urine to leak out.
  • Urge incontinence: This is characterised by a strong urge to go to the toilet without making it in time. It’s sometimes called an overactive bladder.


What is light urinary incontinence or light bladder leakage (LBL)

Light urinary incontinence is usually associated with stress incontinence and urge incontinence. LBL can be caused by several factors. These include underlying medical conditions, physical problems in the urinary system, or even your daily habits. Diet is another cause, with certain spicy, salty, carbonated or caffeinated foods also factors. Having a diet that works for you may mean avoiding some of these triggers. Finally, addressing any health risks such as weight, age, smoking and family history can assist with managing LBL.

Common Causes of LBL

Common causes of LBL

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and increasing weight of the baby
  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles, often occurring after childbirth
  • Changes to the bladder muscles due to ageing
  • Hormonal changes due to menopause
  • Enlarged prostate or prostate cancer
  • A blockage in the urinary tract Constipation
  • Urinary tract infections Neurological disorders

    Common food triggers

    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Carbonated drinks
    • Chocolate
    • Chilli or spicy foods
    • Foods high in sugar or acid
    • Some medications
    • Large doses of vitamin C

    Health factors

    • Being female
    • Age
    • Being overweight
    • Smoking
    • Family history
    • Other medical conditions
    • Such as diabetes
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    How do you manage symptoms?

    Fortunately, there are many ways to manage light urinary incontinence. These include:


    • Using disposable or reusable incontinence pads and pants
    • Performing Kegel (pelvic floor exercises) to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
    • Identifying and avoiding things that may trigger light bladder leakage
    • Adopting lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, eating more fibre, increasing water intake, limiting caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks.
    • Medication to help relax the muscles of the bladder (in the case of urge incontinence)
    • Developing better toilet habits such as only going to the toilet when you need to.
    • Bladder training with a pelvic floor physiotherapist or continence nurse.

    When to see a doctor

    No one likes to talk about their incontinence which is why 70% of people living with the condition don’t seek advice or treatment. However, your doctor can help ease your symptoms. Talk to your doctor if:

    • Incontinence is frequent, affects your daily life or restricts your activities or social life
    • You experience burning pain when urinating
    • Incontinence happens suddenly (this could be due to an underlying medical condition)
    • You constantly feel like your bladder is full
    • Your urine stream gets weaker over time
    • You feel the need to wee but can’t pass urine
    • The amount of urine leaked increases over time

    Remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There is plenty of help and support available to help you manage light urinary incontinence.

    Disclaimer: General advice only – this information should not replace the information provided to you by your health care professional. If symptoms are severe or persist, please speak to your health care professional. You should also speak to your medical professional before taking any supplements or medication, including herbal remedies.

    More Continence Advice

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