Some health issues seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. But a lot less delicious, of course. And bladder leaks are no different.
If you need to know where the bathroom is everywhere you go or are you barely making it to the bathroom once you get the urge and you also have diabetes, you’re not alone. There is a connection between diabetes and incontinence. While the exact link between the two is unknown, I’ll shed some light on some possible reasons why leakage is more common for diabetics.
What is Diabetes?
Did you know that there are several types of diabetes? When most people talk about diabetes, they’re often unknowingly referring to Type 2. It’s the most common form of the disease and the one most likely to be developed as a result of one’s lifestyle. And yes, that means you might have to think twice about eating that pint of delicious ice cream.
Here’s a snapshot of the different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes – The body doesn’t produce any insulin (a hormone).
- Type 2 Diabetes – The body doesn’t produce or use insulin properly.
- Prediabetes – You might hear someone call this type of diabetes, “a touch of sugar.” Your blood sugar might be high, but it’s not high enough to be Type 2 Diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes – High blood sugar that impacts pregnant women.
What Happens When You Have Diabetes?
“Blood sugar” is our main source of energy, so it plays a big role in our lives. Having energy gives you the ability to run, walk, dance, do cartwheels (wheee!), think clearly, and anything else you can think of. We need sugar in our blood to function. And when we say sugar, we don’t literally mean the stuff you put in your coffee. Your body turns everything it eats into sugar in the blood.
Insulin is what controls our blood sugar levels. It tells our liver, muscles, and fat cells “hey, it’s time to take in some blood sugar.” But sometimes our buddy insulin has other plans. And when insulin has trouble getting the blood sugar into our cells so our bodies can use it, then Houston, we’ve got a BIG problem. It might resist (insulin resistance) or not show up at all like a bad date. As a result, the sugar ends up staying in the blood. That causes high blood sugar and that’s when other health problems, including leakage, begin.
Why Do Leaks Happen For People With Diabetes?
So you’re probably thinking, why in the heck would high blood sugar make us experience more leaks? Well, one of the most common complications of diabetes is nerve damage, and our good ol’ bladders aren’t excluded. The nerve damage occurs as a result of high blood sugar. We have what is called autonomic nerves, and they go from our spinal cord to our lungs, stomach, heart, intestines, sex organs, and drumroll…our bladder.
When these nerves are damaged, then our bladder can go a little haywire in the following ways:
- Urge incontinence – that ‘gotta go’ feeling. The lack of sensation in the bladder leads to the sudden urge to urinate.
- Overactive Bladder
- Stress incontinence – Additional pressure on the bladder brought on by excess weight.
- Overflow incontinence– too much urine in the bladder leads to leaks
- Weakened bladder/muscle damage – it becomes difficult to completely empty the bladder, which causes urine to be leftover in the bladder.
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) – Leftover urine in the bladder leads to bacterial build up. Plus, diabetes can impact your immunity.
Diabetes, Mobility, and Leaks
Nerve damage isn’t the only thing that can cause leaks for diabetic people.
What do diabetes, mobility, and leaks have to do with one another? Neuropathy. Have your muscles ever felt numb or weak? If you’ve been around long enough, then you know the sensation of having your leg fall asleep. It’s a weird feeling. And it’s also sort of what neuropathy feels like. In short, neuropathy is a dysfunction of our nerves.
Neuropathy happens to be a very common issue for those with diabetes and it can indirectly cause bladder leaks. Here’s why: damage to the nerves and muscles in your arms and legs can make it challenging to get to the bathroom when you get the urge. Some people have aches and pains when they move and others just can’t move fast enough due to decreased mobility. In this case, back up products like pads and disposable underwear can help — and Lily Bird has you covered on that front.
Mommas Could Be Affected Too
Remember we said that one form of diabetes affects pregnant women? Gestational diabetes can up the ante for bladder leaks. As if it wasn’t enough to have a baby sitting on your bladder, right?
Gestational diabetes increases a momma’s chance of having a larger baby. Childbirth by itself already puts stress on our pelvic floor, so a bigger baby can actually increase a woman’s risk of muscle damage. And you know what that means, right? When the pelvic floor is weakened it also impacts our bladder and voila…we have incontinence.
What Can You Do About It?
Diabetes is already complicated and adding leaks on top of it can be stressful. So, I’m sure you’re probably wondering what you can do about it. Here are a few suggestions on how to prevent and manage it:
- Don’t be afraid to work with your doc. They can help you control your blood sugar, which in turn helps with the leaks.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes
- Practice good hygiene to prevent UTIs
- Purchase incontinence pads to give you a little extra peace of mind
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration only makes leaks worse.
A word of caution: incontinence is not always linked to diabetes. Try keeping a bladder diary and talk with your healthcare provider if you’re not sure what’s causing your leaks.
And if you need a little extra peace of mind, Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered right to your door. Start your free trial today.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH