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diabetes and incontinence

by Diane K. Newman, DNP, FAAN, BCB-PMD 

Diabetes can contribute to urinary urinary incontinence issues, especially in women. Diabetic urinary urinary incontinence can often be treated and no one should accept urinary incontinence as a normal part of being a diabetic.

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More than 18 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, while another 20 million are considered pre-diabetic.(1) Diabetes is a failure or reduction in the body's ability to process sugar, resulting in high blood sugar levels. Pre-diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than healthy levels but are too low to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Unfortunately, diabetic women also have a 70 percent greater risk of experiencing urinary urinary incontinence than non-diabetics.(2) The degree of risk depends on the severity of diabetic symptoms as well as their duration.

Symptoms of diabetes

Increased thirst is a common symptom of diabetes that results in drinking more fluids and causing a more frequent and/or urgent need to urinate. Increased blood sugar levels can also cause irritation of the bladder, which can lead to urinary incontinence. Nerve damage caused by diabetes may affect bladder function (diabetic cystopathy) and lead to loss of the sensation of bladder fullness, which reduces the ability to sense the need to go to the bathroom.Up to 85 percent of diabetics with numbness in their hands and/or feet will have diminished bladder sensation.(3) This decrease in sensation may cause the bladder to become overstretched from increased urine volume. Nerve damage may also keep the bladder from emptying completely. The bladder then becomes too full leading to urine leakage.
Some symptoms of diabetes:

  • excessive hunger/thirst
  • recurring bladder infections
  • fatigue/weakness
  • nausea/vomiting
  • blurred vision
  • urine leakage
  • numbness in hands and/or feet
  • muscle aches and cramps
  • vaginal dryness/soreness/itching
  • overflow urinary incontinence
  • headaches
  • frequent/urgent need to urinate

Pelvic muscle exercises (Kegels) for diabetic urinary incontinence

Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help with at least four of the above symptoms (highlighted in blue.) These exercises improve blood flow to the genital area, which increases lubrication and improves the health of tissues lining the vagina as well as the muscles supporting the bladder. The increase in lubrication may prevent vaginal dryness, soreness and/or itching that is often is associated with pain during intercourse (Dysparenia.) Women may also experience an increase in vaginal sensation and arousal after a period of performing the exercises.

In addition to improved blood circulation and lubrication, pelvic muscle exercises also tone and strengthen the muscles responsible for supporting the pelvic organs (urethra, bladder, vagina, and rectum) and reduce the risk of prolapse and urinary incontinence.

Benefits of pelvic muscles exercises:

  • improved blood flow to genital area that increases lubrication
  • prevention of prolapse
  • less frequent and/or urgent need to urinate
  • better bladder control
  • increased vaginal tone
  • proper emptying of the bladder

When used properly, our pelvic muscle rehabilitation products increase vaginal tone and are clinically-proven to treat stress, urge, and/or mixed urinary incontinence in women of all ages.(4) Please visit our Kegel center and our store to learn more.

References:

  1. American Diabetic Association, 2004.
  2. Brown et al. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2003.
  3. O'Donnell. Urinary urinary incontinence. 1997.
  4. Smith et al. JWOCN. 2000.

Last updated: August 2010

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