Reviewed by: Missy Nolan
What Is Reflex Incontinence?
Reflex incontinence is a condition where you pass urine involuntarily due to a bladder muscle spasm. It usually stems from damaged nerves that signal the brain to contract the bladder without waiting for the bladder to be full. Oftentimes, you pass a large amount of urine without warning. This can create a lot of anxiety and embarrassment unless you take action to treat the condition and manage the symptoms.
With the proper lifestyle and behavior modifications, you can avoid unexpected leakages and go about your life as usual. Severe conditions and those with underlying causes may require medical treatment or surgery to correct.
There are four main types of incontinence. Reflex urinary incontinence is one of these. Another is stress incontinence, which causes urine leakage during physical exertion. The type most similar to reflex incontinence is urge incontinence. This is also called overactive bladder and causes you to feel a strong urge to urinate even when the bladder doesn’t need to be voided. Finally, there is functional incontinence, which doesn’t necessarily indicate a bladder problem but rather an issue with making it to the bathroom on time due to physical injury or limitations. It’s also possible to have a mixture of several types.
Urinary incontinence is a common condition and can affect people of all ages, but it is most common in those aged 50 and older. More than 25 million adults in the United States experience incontinence, either temporarily or as a chronic condition. You should never feel shame over bladder issues. If you experience problems that last longer than several weeks, talk to your doctor for a diagnosis and advice on how to treat your condition.
Causes of Reflex Incontinence
Now that you know what reflex incontinence is, it’s time to dive into the causes of this condition:
- Neurological conditions
- Nerve damage
- Spinal cord injuries
- Bladder or pelvic surgery
- Prostate surgery
- Certain medications
- Pregnancy and childbirth
Sometimes, reflex incontinence is caused by a stroke, injury, or radiation treatment. It’s important to see your doctor to discuss your symptoms and overall health to receive an accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms of Reflex Incontinence
Reflex incontinence is often less understood and recognized than other types of incontinence. Many of the symptoms are similar to other incontinence issues:
- Urinary leakage
- Urgency to urinate
- Increased frequency of urination
- Inability to control urination
- Loss of bladder sensation
The main difference is that reflex incontinence often manifests as urine leakage without warning or an urge to urinate. It can also result in leaking larger amounts of urine than with other types.
Diagnosis of Reflex Incontinence
Diagnosis begins with a physical examination. Your physician will review your medical history and medication list and talk about your current health and symptoms. It’s helpful to keep a bladder diary at the first signs of unusual urinary activity. By recording your symptoms, their severity, and their frequency, you can help your doctor recognize patterns and triggers and make a correct diagnosis to determine if you have temporary or chronic incontinence.
Your doctor will likely order a urinalysis and urine culture to check for infections. Urodynamic testing and imaging studies are also common. The results from these tests help reach a diagnosis so proper treatment can be administered.
Treatment of Reflex Incontinence
Several types of treatments exist for reflex urinary incontinence. Your physician will recommend the best course of action for you based on the severity of your condition and the underlying causes and triggers.
- Bladder training
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises
- Botox injections
You might begin with conservative treatment options and progress to interventional treatments if you don’t get adequate results from less invasive methods.
Coping With Reflex Incontinence
You don’t have to suffer the symptoms of reflex incontinence or allow them to interrupt your life. There are plenty of simple adjustments you can make to cope.
Plenty of incontinence products exist to handle urine leakage. Nexwear is a reliable and discreet company that offers a range of bladder leak pads and disposable underwear to prevent leaks from involuntary urine passage.
Protective underwear is a simple solution to try. They are thin, soft, and comfortable. Many come in form-fitting styles that offer leak-free protection. Pads come in a variety of absorbencies, sizes, and shapes. They are made to wear inside your underwear. For added protection, you can use a pad inside protective underwear or choose a different product based on the day’s activities.
There are several ways you can adjust your behavior and lifestyle to manage incontinence:
- Bladder training
- Managing fluid intake
- Sticking to a bathroom schedule
- Double voiding
- Pelvic floor exercises
It helps to reach out and talk to others who share your experience. Many people feel a sense of anxiety or shame associated with urinary incontinence, but this isn't necessary. It’s a common condition that affects many people for a variety of reasons.
Speaking with people who understand your worries and concerns can help you feel less alone, and support groups are a wonderful source of advice, information, and resources. Hearing from others going through the same thing can give you ideas on how to better manage your condition. They also offer access to a community of people willing to offer a friendly ear when you need to talk.
Coping Strategies for Managing Symptoms
It’s possible to learn to cope with your symptoms without allowing them to disrupt your life. As you find the right balance of behavioral changes, lifestyle adjustments, medications, and other treatments, you can start to ease any discomfort and get back to enjoying your life.
Manage your reflex incontinence symptoms with ease with Nexwear products. Take the quiz to find your perfect fit, and select from a range of incontinence pads and underwear for discreet, comfortable protection.