Diabetes and Incontinence
Diabetes is a metabolic syndrome where the blood sugar levels become higher than normal, which can cause a range of symptoms. It occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough or any insulin to move glucose into the cells of our body. This causes a buildup of sugars in the blood.
Diabetes can be broken down into three main types:
- Type 1 diabetes – where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to insulin.
For more information on diabetes please refer to NHS link - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes/
The 4 main ways Diabetes can have an effect on Incontinence:
- Weight – The pelvic floor muscles support most of your body weight and any excess weight puts strain on these muscles by weakening them. Being overweight is a key factor in developing Type 2 diabetes and is also a major risk factor for developing incontinence. Weak pelvic floor muscles do not support balder and bowel as they should. This can lead to stress or urge incontinence.
- Nerve Damage – Increased glucose levels can also cause nerve damage (neuropathy) similar to peripheral neuropathy, which occurs in diabetics when they lose sensation in their legs and feet. Nerve damage to the bladder and bowel causes a loss of sensation so there may be a lack of awareness of bladder filling. The bladder and bowel may also not empty well, increasing the risk of developing UTIs, etc.
- Medications – Diabetic medications can often lead to urinary incontinence symptoms. The medication, in an attempt to regulate high blood sugar levels, forces glucose from the blood out into the urine. When this happens, the bladder can become irritated, leading to incontinence.
- High blood sugar levels can contribute to frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) which can contribute to an overactive bladder and urge to urinate frequently.
Keeping your diabetes under control can help with incontinence symptoms. There are number of lifestyle changes that can help you regain control of your bladder and bowel like eating an healthy diet, exercising, walks etc.
If you have diabetes and you are trying to manage incontinence issues along with it, do have a discussion with your GP or a healthcare professional about treatment options. With proper management, it is possible to keep your incontinence under control and live a normal, independent and active life.