Constant need for bathroom breaks may indicate a treatable problem.
Has nature been calling a lot lately? Even worse, has it been calling without so much as a forewarning?
Then you could have a condition known as urinary incontinence, the inability to control urination. The term is often used interchangeably with overactive bladder, which also includes sudden urges to urinate and frequent urination. Whatever you choose to call it, it can make a trucker’s life miserable.
Incontinence is not only embarrassing and inconvenient, but it happens more frequently than you may think, especially to truckers. It affects as many as 30 million Americans – though only 10 percent of sufferers report the problem to their doctor. It can affect men and women of all ages, though symptoms tend to worsen with age as a result of other medical problems.
There are many types of incontinence. Overflow incontinence occurs simply from having a bladder that is too full. This can happen to those with weak bladder muscles, a blocked urethra or damage to the nerves in the bladder. It is more common among men because it is often a result of an enlarged prostate gland.
Truck drivers are particularly susceptible to overflow incontinence because they tend to hold urine too long while on the road. Resisting the urge to urinate on a regular basis stretches out the bladder, decreasing tone and elasticity. This can decrease the ability to completely empty the bladder and increase the risk of infections, both of which can lead to overflow incontinence. To decrease the risk of overflow incontinence, maintain healthy restroom habits by trying to organize your day so you can urinate regularly or when urges occur.
“Many of my patients are truck drivers. They are prone to overflow incontinence because they tend to wait too long between bathroom visits,” says Dr. Ken Aldridge, a urologist in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “I recommend that they urinate every two to three hours as part of a healthy maintenance routine even if they don’t feel the urge.”
A damaged sphincter or poor bladder support by weak pelvic muscles can cause stress urinary incontinence. This condition allows urine to leak during movements that strain the abdominal area such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or walking. Stress urinary incontinence is more common in women because of increased risk of damaging muscles during pregnancy.
Urge incontinence occurs when the bladder contracts without control and often before you can make it to a toilet. This can result from an infection, certain medications or unknown causes. Problems like urinary tract infections, constipation, pregnancy, excess fluid intake or side effects from medications can cause temporary symptoms of incontinence that normally fade as the other problems are treated.
Fortunately, there are treatments. These treatments usually require supervision of a doctor, so seeking professional help and getting diagnosed properly is necessary. There are a number of tests available for diagnosis, such as urinalysis, ultrasound, stress test, cytoscopy and X-ray. If you are unsure whether you have incontinence or not, there are many questionnaires available online that you can take before scheduling an appointment. Bladdercontrol.com has a short 10-question quiz that can help you determine whether a doctor’s visit is necessary. Use these tests as a guideline, not a thorough diagnosis.
A variety of prescription medications can prevent unwanted bladder contractions, tighten muscles to prevent leakage or relax muscles to help the bladder empty more completely.
Surgery is also an option for cases that require more than medication.
For less serious cases, bladder training can help an overactive bladder to hold urine longer. This involves exercises that practice holding urine for a certain period of time. The exercises may begin with only urinating once every hour, then eventually building up to two and three hours of holding urine. These exercises are aimed at strengthening the muscles that prevent urine leaks.
Bladder and pelvic muscle exercises, known as Kegel exercises, are helpful in increasing the ability to hold urine, too. You tighten the muscles you use to hold urine for 4-10 seconds, and then relax for the same amount of time. These exercises are very helpful for truck drivers because they can be done while driving.