Bladder weakness can be an embarrassing condition to live with. Suffering from the condition requires you to prepare in advance, and can make day-to-day life difficult. However, it is possible to reduce the symptoms of bladder weakness by doing regular pelvic floor exercises. Here we look at what causes bladder weakness is, what pelvic floor exercises are, and how they can help with bladder weakness.
What is bladder weakness?
Bladder weakness, also known as urinary incontinence, is when the sufferer is unable to control their bladder. Sufferers can accidentally urinate at any time, although the reasons for doing so can depend on extraneous factors.
There are several different types of bladder weakness. The most common include:
- Total incontinence: this is when your bladder is unable to hold any urine at all. As a result, the sufferer will either urinate frequently or continuously.
- Stress incontinence: this occurs when the bladder is under stress from the body, for example during heavy fits of laughter or coughing.
- Overflow incontinence: also known as chronic urinary retention, this occurs when the sufferer is unable to completely empty their bladder. This results in regular leaks.
- Urge incontinence: when the sufferer feels the need to urinate, they involuntarily leak, either immediately or shortly afterwards.
Some people may experience both urge incontinence and stress incontinence at the same time.
What causes bladder weakness?
The causes of bladder weakness vary depending on the type of incontinence. For example:
Total incontinence can be caused by a number of things, such as:
- A trauma to the spinal cord, which affects the signals between the bladder and the brain.
- An existing issue with the bladder from birth.
- A small hole appearing between the bladder and an area close by, for example the vagina. This is known as a bladder fistula.
Stress incontinence can be caused by a number of things, including:
- Injury or damage occurring during birth, especially during vaginal birth as opposed to C-section.
- Existing brain conditions that impact the spinal cord and brain, for example multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
- Higher pressure on the stomach, particularly as a result of obesity or pregnancy.
- Some connective tissue disorders or medications
The causes of overflow incontinence vary, but can largely be categorized into two groups: an obstructed bladder or detrusor muscles that do not fully contract, which affects how you urinate.
An obstructed bladder can be caused by:
- Stones in the bladder.
- A prostate gland that is enlarged (in men only).
The detrusor muscles can be affected by:
- Certain medicines
- Nerve damage
Urge incontinence is caused by damaged or weakened detrusor muscles, or detrusor muscles that contract too often. While the causes of this are not clear, possible theories include:
- Insufficient consumption of fluids. This makes the stored urine stronger, which in turn affects the bladder.
- Excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol.
- Brain conditions
- Issues with the lower urinary tract, for examples bladder tumors or urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Medications that can cause bladder weakness
Some medications can cause bladder weakness by affecting the usual process of holding urine and passing it, or by upping the amount of pee you create. These medicines include:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- A select few antidepressants
- Medicines that make you urinate more, known as diuretics
- ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors
- Some sedatives
What are pelvic floor exercises?
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, involve clenching the muscles around the pelvic floor. These are the muscles that support the bladder, bowel, and womb.
Whenever you are urinating and you hold it in, you are using your pelvic floor muscles. It is not advised that you do this regularly while urinating however, as this can damage your bladder.
By regularly doing Kegel exercises, you can strengthen your bladder and better control your bladder. This will also prevent or reduce accidental urination.
How do I do pelvic floor exercises?
It can be difficult to locate your pelvic floor muscles. But with a little practice, you can find them and start benefiting from pelvic floor exercises.
- Start by sitting on a chair with your knees at right angles and slightly apart.
- Now, try to squeeze your muscles in the same way you would if you were trying to stop yourself urinating mid-stream.
- Once you have found your pelvic floor muscles, squeeze them 10-15 times for a few seconds at a time.
- Do not hold your breath or clench your stomach, thigh, or butt muscles while doing so.
- As you progress, increase the number of times you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, although do not do so excessively.
- You will start to feel the benefits in a few months or so. However, carry on doing these exercises to ensure your pelvic floor muscles stay strong.
Urinary incontinence can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition to live with. However, there are things you can do to treat it. By doing regular pelvic floor exercises, you can strengthen your bladder and reduce accidental leakage, helping you lead a normal, happy life without worrying about urinary incontinence.