Have you ever experienced a nervous urge to go to the bathroom? It’s that feeling you get when you’re really anxious or stressed out about something, making you feel like you need to go now — and urgently. And maybe even more than once. If this has ever happened to you, you’re not alone. In fact, over 42 percent of women in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suffer from it. The technical term for the condition is incontinence, and it’s a lot more common than you might think.
What Is Incontinence?
Particularly affecting women who are in their late 30s, incontinence is often described as the accidental or involuntary release of urine. Classified as a medical condition, this issue can vary in its level of seriousness, and the unintentional and unexpected urge to use the bathroom can be caused by practically anything — from anxiety and stress to laughter and coughing. While the topic is often seen as taboo in the UAE and beyond, more and more urologists have expressed hope that people will be more open about the issue so it can be addressed and ultimately resolved.
According to Dr. Sergio Valenti, a consultant urologist at Valiant Clinic in Dubai, there are many different side effects of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence, for instance, is defined as physical stress as opposed to emotional stress. Its side effects include urine leakage when you sneeze, laugh, exercise, cough, or lift something heavy. Urge incontinence, on the other hand, is when you experience an intense and sudden urge to go to the bathroom, followed by the involuntary loss of that urge. If you suffer from mixed incontinence, it means you experience a blend of both types of symptoms.
“Urinary incontinence is a common problem that affects many people [of] any age,” says Dr. Valenti. “Women are more likely to have stress incontinence. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and normal female anatomy account for this difference.” He later explains that men who have prostate gland problems have an increased chance of experiencing these unwanted symptoms.
What Causes the Condition?
According to Dr. Valenti, environmental and lifestyle factors are often to blame. “Certain drinks, foods, and medications may act as diuretics, stimulating the bladder and increasing the volume of urine,” he says. “This includes alcohol, caffeine, chili peppers, and heart and blood pressure medications. Being overweight [also] increases pressure on our bladder and surrounding muscles, [while] tobacco use may also increase the risk of a urinary infection (UI).”
The issue’s prevalence in the UAE could be due to the fact that there has been an increased number of live births in the region, or to the metabolic disease epidemic currently plaguing the GCC. Another reason could be the fact that, culturally, women are often embarrassed by their urinary infection (UI), and ignoring the problem causes their symptoms to get even worse, Dr. Valenti explains.
And it’s not just the physical discomfort and embarrassment that can be a cause for concern. According to Dr. Valenti, the condition can lead to a number of other health issues down the line, such as skin problems (rashes, skin infections, sores) and an increased risk of consecutive UIs. Incontinence can also be an underlying indicator of a more serious health condition, such as a neurological disease or diabetes.
How to Handle and Prevent the Condition
While the severity of incontinence depends on your daily activities, Dr. Valenti says that having easy access to restrooms and changing rooms can often ease sufferers’ minds and provide them with a way to deal with the issue while in public. However, if delayed urination and ongoing leakage are affecting your quality of life, he suggests seeking professional help to get down to the root of the problem.
For many people, simple lifestyle changes and medical treatments can ease the discomfort of the condition, or even stop it entirely. Here is what Dr. Valenti suggests in order to help decrease your risk of developing or in order to manage incontinence.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Practice pelvic floor exercises. For helpful video tutorials, follow Michelle Kenway’s YouTube channel.
- Avoid bladder irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, and acidic foods.
- Eat more fiber, which can prevent constipation, a cause of a UIs.
- Avoid smoking.
The first step to recovery is to begin talking about the issue. The more conversation and awareness surrounding the subject, the fewer women will have to suffer through this in silence.