Although a common condition that affects millions of Americans, urinary incontinence (UI) is still often treated like an embarrassing secret. Because of this unfair stigma, talking about UI can sometimes seem like a childhood game of telephone: one person whispering to the next person, whispering to the next person, until the message is completely confused.
This lack of open and honest conversation about incontinence has led to a lot of misinformation out there. It’s time to stop the game and talk about UI with real facts.
Here are some widespread rumors about UI that we think it’s time to debunk:
1. I don’t know anyone with urinary incontinence
On the contrary: if you’re struggling with UI, you are far from alone! According to data from the CDC, one in three Americans struggle with UI. Around 33 million Americans have overactive bladder, a similar condition that causes urgency and frequency, often with incontinence. And because many people don’t readily admit to UI issues, these numbers may likely be underreported. Chances are you have plenty of friends, co-workers and family members with urinary incontinence.
2. Only old people have urinary incontinence
Not at all! Teens and young adults also struggle with incontinence or overactive bladder. In fact, according to a 2001 article in the Reviews of Urology, 18% of women 20–24 deal with incontinence issues. UI can arise from a hereditary condition, obesity or diabetes, or as a side effect of an antidepressant or blood pressure medication. For women, childbirth can lead to short- or long-term UI, as can the hormone changes in menopause. For men, enlargement of the prostate gland or prostate cancer can lead to UI as well. Remember: urinary incontinence is not a disease, but a condition often caused by other health problems, many of which affect all ages.
3. Urinary incontinence is a women’s issue
Yes, urinary incontinence is a women’s issue—and a men’s issue. It’s a human issue. While women are three times more likely to struggle with UI than men (especially because it’s a common after-effect of childbirth), 1 in 6 American men report symptoms of incontinence as well. As long as you’re human, you can have issues with UI. Actually, even dogs and cats struggle with UI. So it really is universal.
4. You can use a sanitary pad for leakage
Sanitary pads look like incontinence pads, and they’re cheap and easy to find. So can’t you just substitute them to manage your UI? Definitely not. Sanitary pads are designed for a slow flow of menstrual blood, not rapidly dispersing liquid. Most importantly, they won’t keep you dry. Without proper protection that wicks away leakage, the acidity and moisture of urine can cause painful skin rashes.
In fact, we recommend ditching the pads altogether. Instead, consider incontinence underwear that will keep you dry, comfortable and safe. Look for one that also neutralizes acidity and odor, as well as providing breathability and full coverage. While we don’t like to brag, Alyne is a great option for those seeking the thinness and flexibility of real underwear, without the soggy-diaper feeling of a crinkly pad.
5. There’s nothing you can do to make it better
While incontinence symptoms inevitably become more prevalent with age, that doesn’t mean you can’t take proactive steps to manage the severity and frequency of leakage. Avoiding diuretics like Coke or coffee, especially when a bathroom isn’t readily accessible, can help reduce leakage. So can breathing exercises and pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises.
One of the best ways to help manage UI is to stay active. Regular exercise and recreation can help stabilize your weight and blood pressure, and even balance your hormones—all of which influence incontinence. So don’t stop exercising just because you might leak. Simply slip on some protection and go play!