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How to choose the right treatment for you

Urinary incontinence treatment comes in a variety of forms and at many different price points. The wide range of products, medication, and surgery options available in the market can make choosing the correct treatment for your needs a challenge. The lifestyle changes and treatment options below are either free, inexpensive, or costly, and will help navigate the best course of action for you.

Lifestyle changes (free)

While urinary incontinence can be an inconvenience, it doesn’t have to stop you from living your life. Incontinence can be managed, planned for, and prevented and you can have an action plan for it if something does go wrong. Some simple lifestyle changes can be the simplest, yet most effective, treatment for this issue.

Plan your toilet breaks

Before you head out, you should always plan your toilet breaks to prevent an accident. You should also schedule toilet trips before, during and after an outing. For example, go before leaving home, on arriving at your destination, before getting in the car to travel between locations, or when there’s a free moment that doesn’t cause interruption. In a 2019 HARTMANN study[1], over 40% reported they carry extra underwear with them or an emergency kit with spare clothes.

Non-invasive treatment (inexpensive)

Before surgery or medication, you can choose non-invasive incontinence treatment to let you get on with an active, happy life. Non-invasive treatments, such as incontinence diapers and bed protection products, are quite affordable on some occasions subsidized or funded.

Bedding products

Night-time accidents can plague a lot of people with incontinence; however, a range of bedding products is available. For example, waterproof covers can prevent mattress stains and ongoing odours, or bed matscan be laid down each night in case of an emergency.

Pharmaceutical treatment (inexpensive)

Prescription medication can alleviate the symptoms of incontinence, particularly when other treatments have failed. These medicines can reduce the urinary urgency and the number of trips to the bathroom and leakages. However, many kinds of medication exist for a variety of factors, such as your gender and whether it's stress or urge incontinence. Medication will generally be prescribed when pelvic floor exercises have failed, and symptoms persist.

Incontinence medication is not a cure, and its effectiveness can vary from person to person. Symptoms are unlikely to diminish from the use of medication alone. Rather a multi-pronged approach with better lifestyle choices, such as more exercise and less diuretic consumption, combined with medication is most effective.

Medicine can take a few weeks before it becomes effective. However, once you have started the treatment, it can’t be stopped immediately; otherwise, you could suffer withdrawal symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea, and headaches. Doctors will review your health on incontinence medication every so often and will decide to either continue treatment or wean you off. These medications also come with varying side effects, which may be more troublesome than the incontinence itself. Consult with your doctor if and when they arise.

Some incontinence medications are covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, making them extremely affordable.

Surgery (costly)

Surgery may provide major relief of incontinence symptoms, but it can be prohibitively expensive for some. Surgery options include sling procedures, such as mid-urethral and rectus fascial slings, Colpo-suspension and urethral bulking agents. You should only consider surgery after lifestyle changes and physiotherapy have met no success and you have stress incontinence. Your doctor can advise you further once you’ve exhausted other options.

Deciding on your treatment depends on your budget and what suits your lifestyle. However, you should talk to your doctor and experiment with different products to find a solution to your needs before investigating surgery and medication.