By Natalie Barreiro
We’ve all been there. You know the feeling. You’re out and about, and all of a sudden you’ve got to go.
If you thought about it when you got to your destination, you’ve already scoped out the closest restroom and maybe even brought your own Kleenex — only to be dismayed when you arrive to find that it’s a game of one throne and the line is six people deep.
I once felt desperate enough to pay a $20 cover charge at a nightclub in San Francisco just to get in to use the restroom. It was after 11:00 pm, there weren’t any public restrooms nearby and no way I could wait to find another one quickly (this was before restroom finding apps, online maps or even — gasp — cell phones). And even with all these modern day conveniences, you can still have a close call. The good news is that if you have issues with urinary incontinence, you can take control and plan ahead so it doesn’t limit your social life.
What the Heck is ‘Incontinence?’
Simply put, it’s a loss of bladder control. The inability to control urination. Bedwetting.
Urinary incontinence is something most people don’t want to talk about. Many don’t realize it’s a medical condition that can be both managed and treated.
What causes incontinence?
There are many causes of urinary incontinence including obesity, anxiety, smoking and nerve damage from diabetes. While childbirth can cause temporary incontinence due to weakened pelvic floor muscles, menopause and aging can cause prolonged incontinence in some people with vaginas. Even alcohol or caffeine can lead to temporary incontinence. There are also disabilities like spina bifida, multiple sclerosis and injuries to the spinal cord or traumatic brain injury that may cause incontinence.
If left untreated, incontinence can not only be embarrassing, it can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs), rashes, a loss of self esteem and social isolation. If this is something you or someone you know can relate to, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), urinary incontinence affects 500 million people worldwide. And the National Association for Continence (NAFC) cites over 25 million Americans dealing with bladder leakage every day.
Well.. How do I deal with it?
The good news is there are several options to manage and treat it – both traditional and high tech. Since the average person pees six-to-seven times per day according to Healthline, finding the right solution for your tinkle needs helps to alleviate a lot of unnecessary anxiety.
Managing urinary incontinence or a weak bladder used to mean having to wear an adult diaper or pad protection rather than risk having an “accident.” Today there are also high tech options available to manage incontinence.
By understanding what kind of incontinence you may have, you can better select a solution that works for you. Options to manage urinary incontinence include more traditional ways like disposable adult diapers, pads or medications or more invasive alternatives, such as surgery. Another way to deal with incontinence is to implement a process like “timed voiding,” which is when you visit the bathroom on a timed schedule, say every two to four hours, whether you have to pee or not.
How do I know what kind of incontinence I have?
There are six common types of urinary incontinence – check out and see if you recognize any of these symptoms.
Stress incontinence: Have you ever laughed, sneezed or did some kind of exercise, like running or dancing, which resulted in an accidental urinary leak? Possible causes could include damage of the urethra area, giving birth, uses of certain medicines and pelvic area surgery.
Urge incontinence: Experiencing an urgent need to go to the bathroom with little warning in advance. It may be hard to control the urge and leakage may occur. This is a symptom of incontinence. Irrespective of age or gender, most people affected seek medical attention to help manage the condition better.
Urinary retention: If you have this condition, you are unable to completely empty your bladder. If it’s chronic, you usually aren’t aware of it until you are diagnosed with urinary incontinence or a urinary tract infection. Symptoms may include: weak stream of urine, frequent need to pee and still feeling the urge to pee after urination. If it’s acute, it may be life-threatening. Acute symptoms include unable to pee, discomfort in the lower abdomen and/or an urgent and painful urge to pass urine.
Mixed incontinence: When a person has symptoms of both - an overactive bladder and stress incontinence, it is mixed incontinence. This condition is more common in people with vaginas and seniors of all genders.
Overflow incontinence: When you experience frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn't empty completely.
Functional incontinence: A physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the bathroom in time.
Resources that may be helpful in addressing this medical condition include the NIH, NAFC and Section on Women’s Health.
A new approach to tackle this condition is DFree®, the first health wearable device for urinary incontinence, from Triple W. DFree uses a non-invasive ultrasound sensor to continuously monitor your bladder and notifies you via a companion app on a smartphone or tablet when it’s full, so you know when it’s time to go to the bathroom. DFree stands for “diaper-free” and helps to prevent accidental urinary leaks.
Additional data regarding your bladder activities is also provided by DFree, such as the average time between bathroom visits and how often you need to go. The device can be particularly useful for people with overflow or functional incontinence who need to know how much urine is in their bladder. For other types of incontinence (i.e. stress incontinence or urge incontinence), it can be difficult to prevent leaks as they are more difficult to predict. However, DFree can be incorporated into a Kegel exercises program that can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles to improve these conditions.
So now you can check out the best option(s) for your own needs and have the confidence to hang out at your favorite coffee shop, enjoy a music festival or plan that road trip!
if you purchase the DFree device here, you can get 15% off with this promo code: DFREEPROMO1
DFree is not a medical device and is not intended to be used in the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of diseases or medical conditions.
Natalie Barreiro is Director of Communications at Triple W, an innovator of connected health devices and developer of DFree®, the first health wearable device for urinary incontinence. Triple W was founded in 2015 and has offices in Tokyo, Paris and San Diego. DFree has been helping people with incontinence stay dry since 2017. The company has received six U.S. innovation awards for DFree. www.dfreeus.biz