Our Bodies Defense Mechanisms - How COPD is Linked With Incontinence

One problem that often comes along with though, many people wouldn't associate it with COPD, is incontinence. Incontinence is the medical term for being unable to hold your urine or bowel movements long enough to seek out a restroom. Since most people don't like to openly talk about being unable to control their bladders or bowels, this often goes undiscussed, which leads to more people thinking that "it's only me", and "I can't talk about this because people will see me as helpless".

If someone has COPD and already uses an oxygen concentrator, they might already feel a degree of alienation, but you shouldn't feel this way.

Why Does it Happen?

Incontinence can go along with many other conditions, such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis, and it can happen for a number of reasons. The most likely reason someone with COPD will experience incontinence, is because when our bodies experience something it sees as life-threatening, it goes into a degree of “survival mode”.

In survival mode, the blood rushes to the parts of our bodies that keep us alive – mostly our brains, lungs and heart. These are the organs that will assist you in fighting off enemies or escaping a harrowing situation. This is the type of automatic physical response that people have been experiencing for millennia, and it is ingrained in our DNA. This is also the reason why many people will feel a sudden need to defecate or urinate when they are afraid.

Of course, our bodies don't see our bladders or bowels as necessary for survival, at least, not as much as these other organs. Your bladder or your bowels will not help you to stay alive in the most basic life-threatening situations, and our bodies see not getting enough oxygen as a life-threatening situation.

Since this is just the way our bodies operate, this shouldn't be seen as unacceptable behavior, or embarrassing, but of course, you still don't want it to happen, simply for the fact that it can be very inconvenient. Using your medication and oxygen therapy as directed should also help prevent accidents, as they will make sure you are getting enough oxygen through your blood.

Avoid Incontinence While You are Out and About

Many people who deal with this have found ways prevent it from happening. If you have just recently been diagnosed with COPD, talk to you doctor to see what he or she has to say about the condition. He or she might be able to suggest other things that will help you.

Wherever you go while you are out traveling or just running errands, keep a lookout for any restrooms in the general vicinity. Also, whenever you know you will be leaving the house, don't drink anything and only eat a very light snack, if anything. Keeping little to know food or liquids in your body will help prevent an accident, or it will greatly decrease the amount of the accident if you have one.

Bring some gum or hard candy to suck on in case your mouth or throat starts to feel dry. You can also try to take a bowel movement before you go anywhere, especially if you have eaten around 8 hours before that. Of course, you should also bring along a change of clothes just in case.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

2 thoughts on “Our Bodies Defense Mechanisms - How COPD is Linked With Incontinence”

  • J Gilham

    Thank you for giving such a detailed explanation. I am 43 years old, and have had Stage 3 COPD for a few years now. Doctor originally said I might have 10 years left, IF I take good care of myself. Well, today, it all fell apart. I fell 2 times earlier this week, and then had 2 collapses today. First was an incontinence issued, and then jumped into the shower, I do have a shower chair, but I still collapsed there for about 20 minutes or so. Then I finally get out, and thought that maybe I need to eat something, so went to the kitchen, still super shaky, and OMG!... I didn't even stand there for one minute, and everything failed on me. My legs started really shaking, so I held onto the stove handle and table, and the my arms failed, causing me to just drop. I was in the kitchen floor for another 30 minutes or so before I could gain the strength to get up. Barely made it back to my bed, and then checked my O2, and it was at 81, and that was after a few minutes of being back on my machine, and laying resting. Just done with being stuck inside, and then still having all the new symptoms sneak up on me. Again, Thanks for the info, and allowing me to share.

  • Sirtin Lee

    J Gilham, You should always be on your machine, regardless of what you do. I use my concentrator as much as possible while at home and sometimes I even use air gas oxygen which is purer than what the concentrator produces. I wish you well and hope you will heed my advice.


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