Incontinence and Diabetes

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide
  • November was Diabetes Awareness Month – my apologies for not acknowledging it sooner, but I always figure better late than never. According to the American Diabetes Association, 20.8 million Americans have diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed by our bodies to convert foods into energy. Once again I may have left you wondering, “What does this have to do with incontinence?” Well, it turns out that women with type 2 diabetes are at significantly higher risk of developing urinary incontinence. As if there weren’t enough to worry about with diabetes, now you’ve got to worry about leaking urine!
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    There are a few studies linking diabetes and incontinence, each with slightly varying results. I won’t go into the specific of the studies, because if you’ve got diabetes and you’re experiencing incontinence, I’m sure you’d like to know about treatment and management options. Just know that there is more statistical information out there if you’re so-inclined to research it.

    Diabetes causes increased thirst, so naturally drinking extra fluids can lead to a more frequent and urgent need to urinate, however, don’t cut down on fluid intake without first speaking with your doctor. Diabetes can eventually lead to nerve damage, which can affect the bladder and pelvic floor. Nerve damage can lead to decreased bladder sensation, so that you won’t always feel when your bladder is full, in which case you may not sense the urge to urinate until it’s “too late”. This decreased nerve sensation can also lead to difficulty in completely emptying the bladder.

    Studies show that women experiencing incontinence often don’t tell their doctor. In most cases, incontinence can be treated, or at least managed comfortably. You may want to consider making some lifestyle changes at first to see if you notice a change in your incontinence. Keep a diary each day of what you eat and drink, and also write down whenever you have an episode of leakage. When you review your diary, take note of any specific foods or drinks that seem to be contributing to your incontinence, and then try going without those foods or drinks. Alcohol, diuretics, and caffeine can all lead to increased incontinence.

    You may also want to try some treatment options such as Kegel exercises and biofeedback, which don’t have negative side effects, and from which many women find relief. There are a lot of bladder training techniques, and you may want to try a bladder training technique in which you slowly extend the time between trips to the bathroom. A nurse who works in the incontinence field can explain some of these options to you at length.

    The good news is that there’s also a study showing that in overweight, pre-diabetic women, lifestyle changes made to prevent diabetes can also result in a lower risk of incontinence. So if you are overweight and you’ve been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, there’s yet another reason to make the lifestyle changes that your doctor has recommended.

  • As I write each week, the condition I’m addressing may change, and yet my mantra remains the same, “Stay calm, see a doctor, and seek out treatment options”. Aside from women with diabetes who experience incontinence, there are an estimated 200 million people worldwide, some men, some women, some with diabetes, and some without, but all who’ve experienced incontinence. It isn’t pleasant, but you’re not alone in it.
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    Do you have diabetes related incontinence? What management and treatment options have worked best for you? Talk about it in the message boards.
Published On: December 04, 2006