Treatment for Bladder Control Problems

View of woman's legs in a bathroom

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Are you concerned because you've been leaking urine, urinating more frequently than usual, or experiencing other symptoms of urinary incontinence? You shouldn't feel ashamed, nor should you worry that you're overreacting. Reduced bladder control can seriously hinder your ability to live your life without restraint, and may also be an indicator of a more serious, underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease. What can you do about it?

Do-It-Yourself Treatments

  • Pelvic muscle exercises: There are simple exercises you can learn that will enable you to strengthen the muscles near your urethra. These are called pelvic muscle exercises, or Kegel exercises, and you only have to spend just a few minutes a day on them.
  • Bladder training: You can train your bladder to hold urine better. Follow a timetable for storing and releasing urine. Over time, you may be able to decrease the urge to urinate.
  • Weight loss: Sometimes, extra weight can cause bladder control problems. A good meal plan and exercise program can lead to weight loss.
  • Diet: Some food and beverages make urine control tougher. These include items with caffeine—such as coffee, tea, cola, or chocolate—and alcohol. Your health care team can suggest how to change your diet for better bladder control.

Muscle Therapy

  • Electrical stimulation: Certain devices stimulate the muscles around the urethra. This can make the muscles stronger and tighter, though research conducted over the years has not been able to make a final determination about the efficacy of this treatment.
  • Biofeedback: This takes the guesswork out of your pelvic muscle exercises. A therapist places a patch over your muscles. A wire connects the patch to a TV screen. You watch the screen to see if you're exercising the correct muscles. The great hope is that, eventually, you will learn to control these muscles without the use of this biofeedback machine. Again, research has shown mixed results as to its efficacy.

Medical Treatments

  • Medicines: Certain drugs can tighten or strengthen urethral and pelvic floor muscles. Other medicines can calm overactive bladder muscles.
  • Surgery: Some bladder control problems can be solved by surgery. Which operation your doctor suggests depends on what, exactly, is causing your particular problem. In most cases, the surgeon changes the position of the bladder and urethra so that the bladder control muscles work more efficiently.


  • Pessary: This is a device placed into the vagina to support the uterus or bladder and rectum. It is a firm ring that presses against the wall of the vagina and urethra to help decrease urine leakage. It's most commonly used to treat prolapse of the uterus, but may also be used to treat stress urinary incontinence or other conditions.
  • Urethral inserts: This is a small device that goes directly into the urethra. You'll be taught how to insert the device yourself. You remove this device whenever you go to the bathroom.
  • Urine seals: This is a small, foam pad you place over the urethral opening. Once in place, it seals itself against your body to keep urine from leaking. When you go to the bathroom, you remove the pad and throw it away.

Dryness Aids for Bladder Control Problems

While you should talk to your doctor if you're experiencing bladder control problems, there are items you can use at home to make these issues less disruptive to your home life. These include pads or diapers; a bedside urinal; help from health care workers; or even renovations to your home, such as the installation of a downstairs bathroom, or the widening of a bathroom door in order to fit a wheelchair.

Again, don't be ashamed of the problems you're experiencing. Many women have bladder control problems, whether because of aging or due to a medical condition. Do ask your health care team for help.

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  • The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse