Health Information

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Urinary Incontinence

These are some steps you can take to help manage urinary incontinence.

Avoid Bladder Irritants

Some people find that coffee, other sources of caffeine, citrus, or alcohol increase the urge to urinate. Temporarily avoiding these beverages may cause your symptoms to improve.

Schedule Your Liquid Intake

Most of the liquid you drink will reach your bladder within 2-3 hours. Therefore, it is best to time your intake of large quantities of fluids to those hours when you know you will be near a restroom. If you wake at night to urinate, avoiding fluids for three hours before bed and during the night may also be helpful.

Know Your Medications

Certain medicines ( diuretics ) can increase your urinary frequency for several hours until their effect subsides. Discuss with your doctor when is the best time for you to take them and plan accordingly.

Try Collectors and Pads

There are a number of devices available to catch urine. Small amounts can be managed with sanitary napkins or special condoms (for men). Larger amounts can be absorbed by protective undergarments with high-tech linings that prevent moisture from breaking down your skin. The use of collectors and pads in conjunction with scheduling your liquid intake can turn many incontinence problems into minor nuisances.

Use Catheters as Directed

For hospitalized patients and people who leak large amounts, it may be necessary to remove urine through a tube. Urine tubes can lead to an infection if left in for several days, so these tubes may be avoided. If you have a neurogenic bladder , you will learn how to pass a catheter into your bladder periodically to empty it. In men, a condom attached to a catheter avoids the risk of infection. Sometimes a catheter is placed directly into the bladder through the abdominal wall.

If you have a catheter, you will be instructed to plug it, then drain it when you reach a toilet. Or, you will have a bag attached to it that you carry around with you and drain periodically.

Lose Weight

If you are a woman who is overweight or obese , losing weight may help to reduce the number of episodes due to stress or urge incontinence . Stress incontinence results when certain activities lead to increased pressure on the bladder. Urge incontinence is a loss of bladder control following a strong urge to urinate.

Talk to your doctor about a weight loss program that is right for you.

When to Contact Your Doctor

You can manage fluid restriction, pads, and collecting devices on your own. However, catheters require frequent professional attention from specially trained nurses to handle the following problems:

  • Leakage around the catheter
  • No urine coming out
  • Pain, burning or increased urgency, which may signal an infection
  • Bleeding

Revision Information

  • Incontinence (loss of bladder control). National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/topics/incontinence.aspx . Accessed September 6, 2011.

  • Riley J. Urinary incontinence. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated November 2008. Accessed February 5, 2009.

  • What is incontinence? National Association for Continence website. Available at: http://www.nafc.org/bladder-bowel-health/ . Accessed September 6, 2011.

  • Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society website. Available at: http://www.wocn.org/ . Accessed September 6, 2011.

  • 2/5/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ : Subak L, Wing R, Smith West D, et al. Weight loss to treat urinary incontinence in overweight and obese women. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:481-490.