FAQ: facts about bladder health, incontinence and intermittent catheterisation

Does it hurt to use a catheter? Should men also do pelvic floor exercises? And why is it important to empty the bladder completely? There are a lot of questions around bladder health, bladder retention and how to deal with incontinence – read facts and tips here. 

On this page you will find:

This FAQ is intended as a guide to commonly asked questions. Please always consult your healthcare professional regarding any bladder issues you are experiencing.


General information about incontinence

Here you will find general information about incontinence and urinary retention.

Facts about urinary incontinence Facts about urinary incontinence What is urinary incontinence? What are the symptoms? And what causes urinary incontinence in the first place? Read facts about urinary incontinence
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Incontinence facts - read about ins and outs of urinary incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

  • Urinary incontinence is the medical term for involuntary leakage of urine. 

What are the signs and symptoms of urinary incontinence? Some typical signs and symptoms include:

  • Involuntary leakage of urine without warning or without feeling the need to go to the toilet
  • Involuntary leakage of urine when sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising
  • A sudden urge to rush to the toilet either before or when leaking urine
  • The need to get up to pass urine two or more times a night (nocturia)

What causes urinary incontinence? Potential causes include:

  • Damage of or weakness to the muscles in the pelvic floor (commonly due to pregnancy and childbirth or age). 
  • Problems with the control of the bladder muscle (bladder overactivity and bladder underactivity)
  • Neurogenic conditions that affect the voluntary release of urine (e.g. spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis or spina bifida)
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI) – read about UTI here
  • Type 2 diabetes

How can you treat urinary incontinence?

  • It is possible to manage incontinence effectively. A doctor or nurse should be able to help find a solution that makes it possible to  enjoy a social life and everyday activities.
  • Most types of incontinence can be treated or improved through lifestyle changespelvic floor exercises, bladder training, medication or surgery.
  • If a cure is not possible, or a temporary solution is required, products such as catheters, urisheaths for men can be a great alternative to absorbant solutions such as pads or adult nappies.
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Anyone can become incontinent Anyone can become incontinent Many think that only elderly people get incontinent, but actually, this is not true – incontinence can occur at any time in life. Find out more about incontinence
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Incontinence is a widespread condition that can affect everyone

Incontinence is a widespread condition that can affect everyone. The risk of being incontinent goes up as you age though.

Examples of reasons for getting incontinent at an early stage of life:

Read more about male urinary incontinence.

Read more about female urinary incontinence.

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Incontinence is a common problem Incontinence is a common problem Although incontinence becomes more common with advancing age, it is not just older people who are affected. Facts about incontinence
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Talk to your doctor

Many can feel alone, but actually you shouldn’t. Although incontinence becomes more common with advancing age, it is not just older people who are affected.

It is estimated that a quarter to a third of men and women in the United States suffer from urinary incontinence*. Incontinence is not at all a rare problem and many effective solutions are available, so it should not stop you from living a full and active life, whatever your age.

The most important thing to do when having symptoms is to talk to your doctor. Many cases go undiagnosed and untreated because people do not know how to talk to their doctor about the problem, so do this as a start and decide together on a solution that suits you and your life.

Men suffering from incontinence

Urinary incontinence affects a substantial proportions of men. Looking into 126 scientific articles it was estimated that in average 11% of men aged 60 to 64 years and 31% of men being older than 64 years, suffered from urinary incontinence.

View Coloplast’s award-winning sheath for men with urinary incontinence

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Facts about urinary retention and urinary tract infections

Here you will find information about urinary tract infections (UTI) and how to avoid them.

Information about urinary retention Facts about urinary retention What is urinary retention? How can it be treated? And how to keep a healthy bladder routine if you suffer from urinary retention? Read the facts and tips here. How to keep a healthy bladder routine
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How to keep a healthy bladder routine in quick steps

What is urinary retention?

  • Urinary retention is the inability to empty the bladder.
  • Urinary retention can be acute or chronic.

What are some of the typical symptoms of urinary retention?

  • Discomfort
  • Urgent sense to urinate but inability to start the urine flow
  • Frequent visits to toilet
  • Dribble due to overflow incontinence
  • Weak flow
  • Bloated lower abdomen

How can you treat urinary incontinence?

 

If you have difficulty emptying your bladder, you may need to use an intermittent catheter. The first steps will be to discuss this option with your health care provider and find a product that fits your needs and your lifestyle.* 

If you use intermittent catheters and experience frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), read what to do here.

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Essential things to know about UTIs Essential things to know about UTIs If you use intermittent catheters and experience frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), it may be a good idea to change some of your habits. Essential things to know about urinary tract infections
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Essential things to know about urinary tract infection

Urine left in the bladder is the perfect media for growth of bacteria, which can lead to a urinary tract infection. An infection can move back to the kidneys and cause serious damage to your kidneys, so be aware of having good bladder health.


How can I tell if I have a urinary tract infection?

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection vary and may be subtle. They include:

  • Dark-coloured and strong-smelling urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Fever/sweating
  • Chills
  • Pelvic discomfort lasting more than 24 hours.

If you have any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor or nurse. 

 

If you often experience UTI’s, some of the following advice may be helpful to you:

  • Drink more fluid during the day
  • If you use a catheter:
    • If you experience UTIs despite following these guidelines, be sure to contact a health care provider.
    • Increase how often you catheterise daily. Typically, you will be advised to catheterise 4-6 times a day if you are not able to void by yourself.
    • Consider changing your catheter. Intermittent catheters are less likely to cause urinary tract infections compared to other catheter types.
    • Ensure you have clean hands and materials when catheterising
    • Reassess your intermittent catheterisation technique

 

Note:  If you practice self-catheterization you should always follow the guidance of  your health care professional.

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Emptying the bladder using a catheter should not be painful Emptying the bladder using a catheter should not be painful Many people may think that catheterising is painful, but actually this isn't the case. Here are a few tips about what to do if you experience discomfort or pain. How to use catheter

How to use catheter in the right way?

A catheter can be used to ensure the bladder is completely emptied, but what is a catheter?

  • A catheter is a slim, flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra enabling the urine to drain.

Evidence shows that the majority of users of single use catheters feel no or minimal pain and discomfort. If feeling discomfort it might help to:

  • Wait a few minutes and try to relax
  • Change position
  • Changing to another catheter design – e.g. there are catheters with special tips.

Source: Wyndaele JJ, Oosterlinck W, De Sy W. Clean intermittent self-catheterization in the chronical management of the neurogenic bladder. Eur Urol 1980;6(2):107–10.

Source: Pilloni S, Krhut J, Mair D, Madersbacher H, Kessler TM. Intermittent catheterisation in older people:a valuable alternative to an indwelling catheter? Age Ageing 2005;34(1): 57–60.

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Good bladder health

Here you will find advice on how to manage good bladder health:

Fluid Intake and bladder health Lifestyle has an impact on your bladder health Modifying your fluid intake can be helpful to you in order to manage your symptoms. How to keep a healthy fluid intake?
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How to keep a healthy fluid intake?

Starting to drink less fluid is not a solution. It is very important that you drink enough to keep the urinary system healthy. An adult should drink approximately 1500 ml per day and take in a total of about 2 litres including liquids in the daily diet.

For some people managing symptoms may include changes, such as

  • Reducing the consumption of caffeinated beverages
  • Timing fluid intake at certain times can also be helpful so the need to urinate is more convenient and doesn’t coincide with excursions in public or sleeping at night.
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How often empty your bladder Empty the bladder completely It is important to empty the bladder completely each time you go to the toilet and to go regularly as urine left in the bladder can lead to UTI’s. Read how to avoid urinary tract infections
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Urine left in the bladder can cause infections.

If your bladder is not emptied regularly, it can cause urinary tract infections. Even small amounts of urine left in the bladder can cause infections.

Urine left in the bladder is the perfect media for growth of bacteria, which can lead to a urinary tract infection, which can move back to the kidneys and cause serious damage to the kidneys. Therefore, it is important to empty the bladder completely each time you go to the toilet and to go regularly.

If you use a catheter, make it a habit to empty the bladder completely 4-6 times a day. Make sure to follow the instructions for complete drainage. Together with a proper hygiene, there is then a good chance that you will avoid urinary tract infections.

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Pelvic floor training and emptying the bladder

Here you will find information on pelvic floor training and tips on emptying the bladder fully:

Pelvic floor exercises are for everyone Pelvic floor exercises are for everyone Pelvic floor exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help reduce urinary incontinence – and they are not just for women. Read more about pelvic floor exercises
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How to make a strong pelvic muscles

A strong pelvic floor helps holding the urine back. Pelvic floor exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help reduce urinary incontinence.

How to do pelvic floor exercises:

  • Slowly contract and lift the pelvic floor muscles and hold the position for five seconds, then release
  • Quickly contract and release the pelvic floor muscles
  • You will need to do the exercises regularly and it may take several months before you see a significant improvement.

If you have had your prostate gland removed, it’s been statistically proven that eight weeks of pelvic floor exercises reduced incontinence episodes.

Source: Goode PS, Burgio KL, Johnson, et al. Behavioral therapy with or without biofeedback and pelvic floor electrical stimulation for persistent postprostatectomy incontinence: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2011 Jan 12;305(2):151-9.

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For men with an enlarged prostate... For men with an enlarged prostate... ...did you know that there may be an advantage using a sitting position if you suffer from an enlarged prostate? Tips on draining the bladder properly
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Tips for drain the bladder properly

For men suffering from enlarged prostate there is evidence  that a sitting position helps drain the bladder properly.

For healthy men, no difference was found emptying the bladder in a sitting position compared to in a standing position.

Source: Urinating Standing versus Sitting: Position Is of Influence in Men with Prostate Enlargement. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Ype de Jong et al

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Bowel issues

Some people who experience bladder issues can also experience problems with their bowel too.

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