Living with the constant worry of leaking urine is stressful and uncomfortable.
Those who have this condition, known as urinary incontinence, find their work and social life negatively impacted. The same is true for those with fecal incontinence, which is a similar condition affecting bowel movements.
The long-term effects can be negative. Researchers report that incontinence has psychological consequences, with the most common side effects being shame and insecurity. Some women even avoid social contacts and in the long term incontinence can lead to depression and isolation.1
Don’t despair if you have either of these medical conditions. There are treatments, but you have likely asked—on more than one occasion: can incontinence be cured? Let’s take a look.
If You Have Incontinence
Continence means control over your bladder and bowel, so incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder and bowel control. It can range in severity from a small leak to complete loss of bladder or bowel control.2
There are different types of urinary incontinence—stress and urge incontinence—as well as different kinds of fecal incontinence. So it stands to reason that there are different causes of incontinence, and different forms of treatment. While some treatments focus on managing symptoms, there are ways that incontinence can be cured.
The director of urology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Dr. E. James Wright, offers you hope: “The vast majority of cases can either be cured or significantly improved,” he says.3
Curing Urinary Incontinence
There are several different options to attempt to cure incontinence, or mitigate the symptoms. Here are a few.
1. Watch your diet, particularly if you find certain foods increase your symptoms. Common culprits include alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages, citrus fruits and tomatoes, and spicy foods. It may also help to shed some pounds if you’re overweight.3
2. Train your bladder by doing exercises to keep it better under control. Kegel exercises are helpful for pelvic health in general, and by strengthening them, you may suffer from fewer leaks. Then you can perform a Kegel when you experience an activity that leads to a leak, such as sneezing or coughing. This is called “The Knack.”3 If you find it difficult to contract your pelvic floor muscles, biofeedback, vaginal cones and electrical stimulation may be recommended to help.4
3. Explore medical solutions with your doctor. These treatments can include medications to help your bladder; an injection of Botox into the lining of your bladder; an injection of a thick substance around your urethra, the tube that carries urine out of your body; or surgery to insert a strip of mesh to press against your urethra and prevent leaks.3
Curing Fecal Incontinence
Some of the strategies for urinary incontinence can also be used to help improve or prevent fecal incontinence.
Actions include reducing constipation by eating more high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of fluids, and if you are constipated, to avoid straining during bowel movements. That can eventually weaken anal sphincter muscles or damage nerves. On the other hand, if you have diarrhea, treating or eliminating the cause, if possible, can help.5
Your healthcare provider may also recommend Kegel exercises, biofeedback and bowel training, similar to solutions for urinary incontinence.
Finally, if the fecal incontinence is due to an underlying problem, it may require surgery. Examples include rectal prolapse or sphincter damage caused by childbirth.5
See a Doctor
It’s important to speak to a doctor if you have incontinence. You need to know that you’re not alone, so don’t suffer in silence. Some research suggests that up to half of people with urinary incontinence don’t talk about it with their doctor.3 Diagnosis is the first step to treating, and potentially curing, your incontinence condition, particularly before it gets worse. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health to help with your treatment plan for incontinence.