It is no secret that smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco and nicotine products are bad for your health. The FDA has been working for years to regulate and control tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to protect public health through various campaigns and legislations. But smoking can actually have an impact on urinary health leading to light bladder leaks when coughing, running, or even laughing.
What do Light Bladder Leaks Mean?
If you experience bladder leaks when performing activities that would put stress or pressure on the bladder, you may have Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI. The pressure that can trigger leaks can be minimal – running up the stairs, lifting the laundry basket, or an allergy sneeze can all put your bladder under stress and cause you to have a urine leak. This is due to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that control and regulate your body’s flow of urine. The leaks can range from a few light dribbles to a stream. While both men and women can develop SUI, it is more common in women with an estimated 15 million women in the U.S. experiencing it. Light bladder leaks can develop from a series of reasons, mostly procedures and life events that involve, interfere, or alter the pelvic floor such as a vaginal birth or hysterectomy. Other factors may include weight, age, and genetics.
Smoking and Urinary Health
It’s important to understand every factor that may be contributing to bladder leaks to make the best decisions for your health and lifestyle. Smoking or vaping has been linked to the development of SUI in both women and men for two reasons:
Coughing: Smoking, even those who have smoked often over periods of time, cough a lot more than nonsmokers. Years of coughing can cause some serious damage to the pelvic floor muscles, which may turn into the occasional leak.
Bladder Cancer: Smoking has been linked to bladder cancer, which can be painful and cause death.
It is also worth mentioning while discussing urinary health, that cigarettes are a known bladder irritant, causing smokers to have to frequent the restroom more often and have problems controlling urges more than nonsmokers.
The most obvious first step to help treat your occasional leaks is to quit smoking. Smoking has adverse effects on all aspects of health, including your bathroom habits. To quit smoking the National Association for Continence recommends these steps:
- Talk to your doctor – Your doctor can make program and medication recommendations to help you quit.
- Get support – Tell your loved ones that you’re trying to quit! Friends, coworkers, and family members can support and encourage you to not smoke.
- Avoid your triggers – Certain times of the day or certain activities can trigger the craving for a smoke. Try either avoiding these activities or occupying your time during these triggers.
- Take up a hobby – Once you quit smoking, chances are you’ll have some extra time and money to spend. Try picking up a hobby that can distract you from cravings.
There are products available for women that experience the occasional leak that are available in stores and online. Pads and liners are similar to menstrual products but are specifically meant to absorb and discreetly cover up leaks. While pads and liners are convenient, they are not safe or effective to absorb urine for all-day protection and are often made with non-biodegradable materials and chemicals that can have an impact on landfills.
For some women experiencing incontinence, medication or medicated topical ointment may be an option. This may work for menopausal women who have had the lining of the urethra thin due to lower estrogen levels.
Specifically, exercises that target the pelvic floor muscles like Kegels. Kegels are effective and easy for women of all ages to perform. Simply engage the pelvic floor muscles by contracting them for 5 seconds, release for 5 seconds and repeat. Like any other form of exercise, Kegels may take weeks to see results start to form.
Some women turn to a surgical option to help their leaks. There are two surgical options for women experiencing incontinence – pelvic sling surgery or colposuspension. Both are meant to support the bladder. It is important to note that in an effort to protect public health and safety, the FDA has ordered that the manufacturers of pelvic mesh implants stop production and distribution until evidence is shown that all safety and effectiveness regulations have been met.
Another solution for women that are experiencing light bladder leaks due to smoking, being overweight, or surgery is a revolutionary new device called Revive™. The one size fits most device is placed in the vagina to support the bladder, urethra, and surrounding muscles to reduce leakage. It is safe, effective, and can be comfortably worn for up to 12 hours a day to keep users dry. Revive™ is reusable and is available for over-the-counter use at major retailers nationwide.