What does urinary incontinence have to do with diabetes?

The 14th of November is celebrated as World Diabetes Day. Almost 700,000 people live with diabetes, but what does urinary incontinence have to do with it?
Loss of bladder control is a fairly common consequence of diabetes and there are three main links to why it happens. People with diabetes are more likely to develop stress incontinence but factors such as nerve damage, obesity, and bladder infection are also often linked to bladder control problems.

1. Obesity

The risk of Type 2 diabetes rises with obesity. Excess of weight can create a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, causing strain on the bladder and bowel. This can develop into stress incontinence (leakage when coughing and sneezing) and urge incontinence (the need to urgently go to the toilet), or even total loss of bladder control.

Staying active and keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong can help you manage your incontinence. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Remember that walking is also a great activity that can be done everywhere and anywhere! Practicing kegel exercises, which specifically help strengthen pelvic floor muscles, are the best exercises to undertake.

2. Reduced immunity - Bladder infections

People with diabetes may have difficulty completely emptying their bladder, which makes them much more susceptible to urinary tract infections. This is because diabetes interferes with the immune system, increasing the risk of infections.

Bladder training is a helpful way to help deal with this problem. Establish a schedule for going to the bathroom and aim to go to the toilet during these times so your body slowly adjusts to this timeframe. Take time to completely empty your bladder and bowel and do not get into the habit of going ‘just in case’.

3. Nerve Damage

Overtime, diabetes can cause nerve damage (neuropathy). Although it is more common to occur in the feet, it can also cause a loss of feeling in the bladder area, making it more difficult to tell when the bladder is full or completely empty.

Keeping your diabetes well-controlled is the best way to prevent nerve damage or further damage.

Some medications that people with diabetes take can have diuretic effects, thereby increasing the risk of involuntary urine loss. If that happens, do not stop taking any of your medication. Talk to your doctor for advice.

Incontinence is not always preventable but there are some habits that can help reduce the risk of developing it, such as:

-   Having a healthy diet

-   Drinking plenty of water and avoiding drinks that may cause bladder irritation

-   Maintaining a healthy weight

-   Exercising regularly, especially your pelvic floor muscles

-   Keeping your blood glucose levels within your target range

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor or healthcare professional for advice.



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