Urinary Incontinence Home Care
Home care for urinary incontinence includes:
- Stop smoking
- Avoid exposure to secondary smoke
- Avoid nonprescription cold medicines.
- Avoid nonprescription decongestant medicines.
- Avoid nonprescription allergy medicines:
- Avoid sedative medications:
- Take prescribed medications as directed:
- Don't skip doses of your medication. This makes them less effective.
- Be aware of the common side effects that may be caused by your medication.
- Concentrate on holding your urine before you sneeze, cough, laugh, stand up, or lift something heavy.
- Avoid urinating until you feel the urge to urinate.
- Empty your bladder completely.
- Do not rush:
- Take time to empty your bladder completely
- Empty your bladder before you start on a trip of an hour or more.
- Wear clothes that are easy to remove when it is time to use the toilet.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Women should wipe from front to back:
- This lowers the risk of urinary infections.
Urinary Incontinence Catheter Care
Some people with urinary incontinence will require a catheter in the bladder temporarily or for a long period of time. General measures include:
After Catheter Removal Care
- Drink plenty of fluids to flush out your urinary system.
- Use pain medications as prescribed by your urologist.
- Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for mild pain.
Basic Catheter Care
- Wash your hands. This helps avoid infection.
- Gently wash the area (twice a day for men; once a day for women) with soap and water where the catheter enters your body. This may be done in the shower, but not in the bath. Do not take a tub bath while you have a catheter in place.
- Dry the area gently.
- Males with a Foley catheter should place a small amount of Bacitracin ointment on a Q-tip and apply it to the tip of the penis where the catheter enters. If you can, do this twice each day. This will help keep the area from becoming infected.
Use of the Leg Bag
If you are up and about, you'll want to use a leg bag to drain your urine. The bag is attached to the end of your catheter and is strapped to your thigh.
Empty your leg bag every 3-4 hours or sooner if it is 1/2-3/4 full.
To empty the bag:
- Wash your hands.
- Stand or sit near a toilet or sink
- Loosen the strap closest to your knee so that the bag hangs over the toilet (or sink).
- Push lever on the bottom of the bag out and down.
- Drain the urine.
- Close the lever.
- Wash your hands.
Night Drainage Bags
Before you go to sleep at night, you should change your drainage bag to a night bag (see next section). When you aren't using your leg bag, it should be washed out with soap and water and hung up to dry. This should be done once a day.
The night drainage bag is larger than the leg bag and holds more urine. It is designed to hang on the side of a bed or chair, or to be attached to any loose-fitting pants (such as sweat pants). Remember, your urine drains into the bag by gravity, so you need a bag that will be below the level of your bladder. So whenever you are spending a lot of time lying down or sitting still, the night bag will work better. The night bag should always be used at night while you are sleeping.
Using a night drainage bag:
- Wash your hands.
- Empty the leg bag as explained above.
- Pinch off the catheter with your fingers.
- Disconnect the leg bag.
- Clean the tip of the night bag with an alcohol swab, and then connect the night bag to the catheter.
- Tape the catheter to your thigh so that the bag doesn't "pull" on the catheter when you lay down. That is, make sure there is some slack above the tape.
- Wash your hands.
- When you get into bed, arrange the tubing so that it does not kink or loop.
- Hang the night bag on the side of your bed, or place it on the floor. Be sure to keep the bag below the level of your bladder at all times.
- In the morning, wash your hands and empty the night bag into the toilet.
- Clean the tip of the leg bag with an alcohol swab.
- Pinch off the catheter, and re-connect the leg bag.
- Rinse out the night bag with soap and water, and hang it up to dry.
- Wash your hands again.
Other Catheter Tips
- Drink 4-6 glasses of water a day to keep your kidneys and bladder flushed out.
- You may shower, but do not take a tub bath.
- You may feel "bladder spasms" while your catheter is in place.
- This might feel like a cramp or a sudden, strong urge to urinate.
- You might feel it when you are moving your bowels, which is normal.
- If spasms are causing a lot of discomfort, let your doctor know.
- Take any prescribed medications.
- Keep scheduled appointments.
Urinary Incontinence Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises can be effective in controlling the symptoms of urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises suppress the urge to urinate by contracting the muscles that control urination. This gradually increases the time between voiding. The goal is to have at least 2 hours between voiding during the day, and 6-8 hours between voiding at night.
How to perform Kegel exercises:
- Contract your muscles upward and inward while voiding, so that you can stop the flow of urine.
- Hold this position for a count of 6 seconds.
- Release the urine for a count of 6 seconds.
- Repeat the above one more time before emptying your bladder.
Urinary Incontinence Taking Control
The successful treatment of urinary incontinence requires your participation. Here are answers to some important questions.
Do you have control over your health and wellness?
Many people believe they have no control over their health and wellness. Many ignore personal health decisions or simply leave them to their doctors, relatives, or friends. In reality, you have the greatest potential to determine your relative health.
How is this possible? Do people really have control of their own health? The biggest killers are heart disease and cancer. Although many of these diseases seem to strike at random, our lifestyle choices greatly influence personal risk.
How can you participate in your health care?
To participate you must:
- Learn to take responsibility for your own health.
- Learn to partner with your doctor.
- Learn how to make active decisions about your health.
How can you learn what you need to know?
- Educate yourself.
- Be skeptical: Learn to separate fact from fiction.
- Billions of dollars are spent each year marketing dietary supplements, vitamins, and new medical treatments. Much of this is unnecessary and wasteful.
- Be careful about where you get your health information.
- Some of the best sources for health information on the web are professional societies and non-profit organizations.
- Ask your doctor what he or she recommends.
- Examine the credentials of the authors.
- If you are reading about symptoms and disease, your best source is a licensed physician.
- Pay attention to when the content was last updated.
- Make sure the person is not just trying to sell you something.
Important questions you need to answer:
- What things in your control can increase your risk for disease?
- What can you do to decrease this risk?
- What are vaccines and how can they help you?
- How do your lifestyle choices increase your risk for disease?
- How can you reduce stress?
- What minor health problems can you treat at home?
- When is a medical problem "serious"?
- When should you call the doctor?
How can you find the right doctor?
- Everyone should have a primary care physician or family doctor. A primary physician is usually a family practitioner, internist, or pediatrician.
- Establish a relationship in advance with your doctor.
- Make sure you are comfortable with your primary care physician.
- The internet contains many resources where you can do research to locate the doctor that is best for you.
- You may wish to schedule a brief visit with the doctor to see if he or she is right for you.
- Be open-minded, and allow your doctor to know you well. This will improve communication.
Important information you need to make your decision:
- Physician credentials:
- Internship and residency training is usually best from respected institutions, universities, and major hospitals.
- Look for board certification in the specialty.
- Ask about membership in medical societies.
- Community and professional reputation are also important.
- Are other patients happy with the doctor?
- Has the doctor been disciplined by hospitals or agencies?
- How long has the doctor been in practice?
- In general, more than a few malpractice suits over a 5-10 year period should trigger caution.
- Does the doctor communicate well? Are your questions answered during busy times?
- Does the doctor welcome you to help make decisions about your care?
- Is the doctor available when you need care?
- What is the doctor's after-hours coverage?
- Is he or she a member of a large group?
- Do the doctors' cross-cover one another?
- Where do they admit patients?
What is shared decision making?
You and your doctor must work together to jointly decide the best course of action to manage your health. This process is called "shared decision making". Your doctor becomes a guide and teacher and helps steer you toward the best treatment. Most doctors welcome this partnership. You must learn about your illnesses for shared decision-making to work.
For any recommended test, medication, or surgery, remember to ask:
- How will this help me?
- How much will it cost?
- Is it covered by your insurance?
- What are the potential side effects and risks?
- What are my alternatives?
For tests, remember to ask:
- Is it done in the office or at another facility?
- Is it painful?
- How will the results of this test influence my care?
For surgery or other procedures, remember to ask:
- How long will it take to heal?
- How many cases has the doctor done?
- What would your doctor do if he or she were the patient?
- Where is it done?
- Who will perform it?
- What are the doctor's qualifications?
What should you expect?
Shared decision making becomes impossible if you do not know what to expect from your doctor.
The American Hospital Association has published a "Patient's Bill of Rights" that is a good guide. It states that you have the right:
- To be spoken to in words that you understand
- To be told what's wrong with you
- To know the benefits of any treatment and any alternatives
- To know what a treatment or test will cost
- To share in treatment decisions
- To read your medical record
- To refuse any medical procedure
What should you do before an office visit?
- Bring all important medical information with you to the visit.
- Make sure you can answer questions about the following:
- Allergies and side effects to medicines
- Current medicines you are taking. This includes herbs and vitamins. Make a list if necessary.
- Insurance information
- Marital and sexual history
- Past injuries and hospital stays
- Past medical problems
- Past surgeries and operations
- Pre-visit questionnaires
- Use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs
- Work history
What should you expect from the visit?
- You should plan to wait if you go without an appointment. Emergencies or sick patients in the hospital may interrupt your doctor.
- Bring along a book or toys for the kids. You may also have to wait during busy times.
- Tell your doctor about your problem in a clear manner. Start from the beginning and go through each symptom as it appeared. Think about what has made your problem better or worse. Most doctors ask many questions about "unrelated" symptoms. These questions help assure that there are no other problems that need attention.
- Be sure to answer all questions truthfully. This includes sensitive questions about smoking, drug use, sexual activity, and work. Your history is the most important part of deciding what is wrong with you.
- If you have any difficulty communicating your concerns, bring a family member or friend to assist in this task.
- Talk to your doctor and do not leave the office without asking necessary questions. Your doctor can make you more comfortable if he or she understands your concerns.
What should you know about your medications?
Every year many people become ill because of problems with medications.
Remember to ask:
- What side effects to expect.
- What drug interactions are possible.
- Find out if a new medicine reacts with those that you are taking now.
- Many over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements can also cause serious side effects and drug interactions.
- Some drugs interact with certain foods, vitamins, nicotine, and alcohol.
- Make sure you can drive or operate machines safely while taking a medicine.
- Ask your doctor how much a prescription costs.
- Is there a less expensive option or a generic version?
What is a treatment plan?
A treatment plan is what you and your doctor decide to do for an illness. A treatment plan cannot be effective without your participation.
Three simple questions can help you get the most from your treatment plan:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do these things?
Other important points:
- Be sure you understand your treatment plan.
- Stick with the treatment plan and allow time for improvement.
- Don't stop medicines when you feel better; check with your doctor first.
- Call your doctor if your condition is becoming worse.
- Your doctor should tell you what to expect and when to follow-up or call the office.
Urinary Incontinence Warning Signs
Notify your doctor if you have urinary incontinence and any of the following:
Continue to Urinary Incontinence Prevention
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- Siegel SW, Catanzaro F, Dijkema HE, Elhilali MM, Fowler CJ, Gajewski JB, Hassouna MM, Janknegt RA, Jonas U, van Kerrebroeck PE, Lycklama a Nijeholt AA, Oleson KA, Schmidt RA. Long-term results of a multicenter study on sacral nerve stimulation for treatment of urinary urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, and retention. Urology. 2000 Dec 4;56(6 Suppl 1):87-91. 
- Zinner N, Harnett M, Sabounjian L, Sandage B Jr, Dmochowski R, Staskin D. The overactive bladder-symptom composite score: a composite symptom score of toilet voids, urgency severity and urge urinary incontinence in patients with overactive bladder. J Urol. 2005 May;173(5):1639-43.