Let’s talk about COPD and incontinence

Did you ever wonder why the two are connected?

Caroline Gainer avatar

by Caroline Gainer |

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Incontinence ranks right up there with religion and politics as topics we don’t usually mention in polite company, partly because it’s embarrassing. But let’s discuss it anyway, because it affects many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

I’m fortunate to have never had an incident with incontinence in public. It was humiliating enough to be alone at my kitchen sink when the gush happened. My good fortune continues today as I have only occasional urinary incontinence.

Back to that gush at my kitchen sink: I was coughing and gagging while rinsing the dishes, and a small amount of urine escaped. At first, I tried to control the leak, but then the urge overtook me and I ended up with a puddle on the floor. I was horrified.

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As it turns out, my experience was common for someone in the eighth decade of their lives, as age is a contributing factor for incontinence. Additionally, I have COPD, and oxygen deficiency can affect every cell in the body. So the disease can make it more likely for me to have issues with bladder control.

That’s because a loss of oxygen saturation can cause the body to go into “survival mode,” during which “the body starts shutting down and conserving oxygen for the most vital organs,” according to an article on COPD.net. Oxygen is then diverted from the bladder and bowel to more vital organs. Thus, the release of urinary and fecal material may occur.

Good news

The good news is that we have ways of dealing with incontinence. One way is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Kegel exercises are performed by “lifting and holding and then relaxing your pelvic floor muscles.”

Adult diapers and incontinence pads are also available to soak up those accidents as they happen, which can give us confidence when venturing outside the home. The COPD Foundation offers additional suggestions to help you manage these issues.

Incontinence pads have worked well for me, and I also do Kegel exercises. Since my leaks are infrequent, I haven’t pursued other solutions.

Yes, this issue is one more to deal with if you’re older and have COPD. I remain grateful to still be on this planet and mostly in my right mind. Life is precious to me and worth dealing with a few bumps along the way.

Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.




Add to that medications such as Trelegy which enhances the situation causing urinary complications. I will be stopping Trelegy with my latest difficulties.

Wanda Stevens avatar

Wanda Stevens

I know the struggle. I have to sit down if I have to cough. I've done Kegel exercises most of my life, but COPD doesn't seem to care 🤷‍♀️ I use Poise pads #4 and lucky for me, I usually only have to change once after putting a new one on before my morning begins. I just have a hard time when the cough hits and that's also when I know I need to take a break. It's a whole different life to learn, nothing is the same anymore 🫤

Kay Hutkay avatar

Kay Hutkay

Thank you for sharing! I thought it was just me!

Danny Cook avatar

Danny Cook

Yes indeed, incontinence has made itself quite know to me these last 3 or years. I'm at stage four and it seems that the slightest exertion I'm gasping for air and doing everything I can to not wet myself. Sadly, most of my attempts to stop the release of urine have failed. Most times it's minimal leakage, but on some occasions I have no control to cease the flow. I've even soiled myself twice because my blood oxygen saturation was dangerously low. . Paramedics we're working on me trying to get me stable, but for all my want to control my self was a no go. Sadly I was left to marinate in my body's function releases while in the hospital, and only able to clean myself up once they released me some hours later. Incontinence is no fun.

Debra avatar


there was no mention of stress incontinence of the bowels


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