Pardon Me, Is There A Restroom Nearby?
Just what women needed – one more thing to stress out about. For most women, their schedule is already full. Some of those women find they are coping with urinary incontinence – a problem no one wants to discuss. If mapping the quickest route to the bathroom throughout the day is on your schedule, then you may be among the ones who need to know about the latest treatments for urinary incontinence.
Experts define urinary incontinence as the strong, sudden urge to urinate that is sometimes followed by involuntary loss of urine. Women who suffer with it define it as embarrassing, inconvenient, and bothersome.
It’s a problem that affects over 13 million women in the United States, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Women experience incontinence twice as often as men.
According to Ben Darby, MD, ob/gyn with OBG-1 of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are blamed for this difference. “The basic structure of the female urinary tract is also a cause,” he explained. “Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic muscles that hold the bladder in place, which may cause it to tilt and make it difficult to empty completely,” he said.
Older women are troubled with incontinence more often than younger women. But incontinence is not inevitable with age.
Thomas Alderson, MD, urologist with Sulphur Urology, LLC, sees many women who struggle with incontinence. “It can have a devastating effect. It causes embarrassment over something they can’t control, leaving them feeling helpless unless they seek treatment.”
There are various treatments available, both surgical and non-surgical. The non-surgical treatments include Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle and medication to increase the tone of the muscle around the urethra. One surgical treatment Dr. Alderson discussed was a sling to help lift the bladder. “After multiple pregnancies, the bladder can fall below optimum position. A sling can help pull it up to its proper place. The procedure is relatively simple and I’ve seen it literally change the lives of some women. They no longer worry about leaking and can return to their full activities within days.”
The choice between non-surgical and surgical treatment depends on the severity of the incontinence, the patient’s general health, how much the incontinence is affecting the quality of patient’s life, and most importantly, the patient’s ultimate goal. “A variety of medications are available to treat specific problems and have proven to be very effective,” said Dr. Alderson.
There are three types of urinary incontinence: stress, urgency, and overflow.
Stress incontinence is when urine leaks occur while coughing, laughing, or during physical activity such as climbing stairs or jogging. It’s caused by the abdominal muscles tightening and forcing urine out of the bladder.
If you find that the urge to use the bathroom and leaking occurs at almost the same time, you may have urge incontinence. By the time the urge is felt, there is usually not enough time to make it to the bathroom. It can also happen when you hear water running. Urge incontinence is often due to a condition that irritates the bladder or disturbs the body’s nervous system.
Overflow incontinence, rare in women, is when the bladder constantly remains full. Weak bladder muscles or a blocked urethra are often the cause. Nerve damage from diabetes or other diseases can weaken bladder muscles and cause overflow incontinence.
“Embarrassment should never be the cause of avoiding treatment for any concern,” Dr. Darby explained. “Incontinence is treatable and often curable at any age. Unfortunately, many women feel it is a normal part of the aging process, so they don’t seek medical treatment. It is a common problem that can cause emotional distress and limit everyday activities.”
Dr. Alderson also urges women to seek treatment. “There are many ways to treat incontinence, it would be a shame for women to suffer in silence.”