Cystic fibrosis is a rare, progressive, and hereditary disorder that affects the lungs, digestive system, and other important organs. The cells in the body that are responsible for producing sweat, digestive juices, and mucus become very thick and clog up necessary pathways in the body. A person with cystic fibrosis often experiences lung infections, weight loss, gastrointestinal disorders that affect bowel movements, and chronic coughing that often leads to urinary incontinence.
Cystic Fibrosis and Urinary Incontinence
When urine unintentionally leaks from the bladder, it is called urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is a condition that anyone can get, not just those with cystic fibrosis. However, studies have shown that it is common for those with cystic fibrosis to develop incontinence, especially young adult women. It is important to note that just because a person has cystic fibrosis does not mean they are sure to have urinary incontinence. Awareness is key and having the information to be prepared is beneficial.
Chronic Coughing and the Pelvic Floor
Because those with cystic fibrosis experience frequent coughing episodes, the muscles that control the bladder may become weak, causing the inability to control urination. This type of urinary incontinence is referred to as stress incontinence due to repeated coughing putting stress on the bladder. Under normal conditions, the bladder muscles work to hold urine until you are ready to use the restroom. When a person has a chronic cough, pressure is put on the bladder, causing the pelvic floor muscles to suddenly relax. This relaxation results in unexpected leakage of urine. The pelvic floor muscles need to contract when a person coughs in order to prevent leakage, and with the persistent and prolonged coughing a person with cystic fibrosis experiences, these muscles sometimes are just unable to keep up.
Controlled coughing may help control the pelvic floor muscles and help minimize or even prevent leakage. The following short video shows the technique of clearing your cough to protect the pelvic floor.
What Can Make Urinary Incontinence Worse?
There are some conditions that can contribute to worsening urinary incontinence in those that are affected by Cystic fibrosis.
Constipation or hard, bulky stools can make urinary incontinence worse by putting pressure on the bladder. Many nerves in this area are shared and become overactive when a person is constantly straining. This can lead to stress incontinence and result in leakage. Medications are usually recommended to treat these problems and can improve the symptoms of urinary incontinence.
Urinary Tract Infections
When bacteria enters the bladder, a urinary tract infection occurs. This can be a very painful experience, especially when you have strong urges to urinate and only release a little bit each time. A urinary tract infection can contribute to urinary incontinence and is also usually treated with medication your doctor can prescribe.
Cystic Fibrosis-Related Diabetes
The excessive mucus buildup in those with cystic fibrosis results in scarring of the pancreas and the normal production of insulin stops. This scarring blocks enzymes that play an important role in the digestion of food and the proper breakdown of nutrients. One of the common symptoms of cystic fibrosis-related diabetes is urinary incontinence. If left untreated, this disorder can make urinary incontinence worse because of the frequent need to urinate. Speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing urinary incontinence and whether you should be screened for this condition.
What Help is Available?
Speaking to others about urinary incontinence is not something most people want to do and can be embarrassing. The fact is, when symptoms related to cystic fibrosis are left untreated, they can only get worse and lead to even bigger problems. It is important to make your doctor aware of any problems you are experiencing right away
Your doctor may suggest the use of appropriate incontinence pads that can help with your leakage. There are various types of incontinence pads and different levels of absorbencies available to manage your leakage and protect your clothing and bed. It is also a wise idea to be prepared for a larger leak just in case.
If you have been screened for Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, your doctor may suggest you maintain a high-protein, high-calorie diet to make sure you stay at a healthy body weight. There are many nutritional options available that deliver the fat, protein, and calories required and manage glucose levels for a complete and balanced diet.
Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist or urologist that specializes in the treatment of urinary incontinence related to Cystic fibrosis. They may order some specific tests that can help guide treatment and can also help show you how to properly exercise and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to reduce the symptoms.
Urinary incontinence, specifically stress incontinence, is a very common symptom in those that have Cystic fibrosis. Always remember to speak to your doctor immediately about the symptoms you are experiencing. If you have any questions about the products we carry, our Personally Delivered Product Experts are just a phone call away and ready to help.