I frequently see women who have never sought treatment for their urinary incontinence because they were either too embarrassed to ask their healthcare provider about the issue or were told “leakage” is a normal part of aging and to “just deal with it.” Luckily, this is far from the truth; current interventions can cure or greatly improve the symptoms of urinary incontinence for more than 80% of women.
A large number of women can regain control and avoid leakage with very simple interventions. For instance, in women who have urinary urge incontinence (leakage due to an incontrollable urge), control can often be restored by retraining the bladder through behavioral modifications, restoring pelvic floor muscle health or avoiding certain foods or beverages that irritate the bladder. If these methods are not successful, medications to restore bladder control can be used with good effect. In some extreme cases where medicine is not effective or not tolerated, bladder control can be restored with either an implant, similar to a pacemaker but for the bladder, or Botox injections into the bladder wall.
Many women have another type of incontinence called stress urinary incontinence. The common complaint from these women is urine leakage with exertion, exercise or even just a cough, laugh or sneeze. Women with these complaints can often regain bladder control by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through simple exercises, either with written instructions or with the guidance of a physical therapist. At least 80% of women who attempt physical therapy report they are much improved or cured. These improvements are as long lasting as the commitment to keeping the pelvic floor muscles strengthened. If physical therapy does not stop the leakage, there are nonsurgical and surgical options to choose from – both of which are about 90% effective.
Don’t let embarrassment or misinformation stop you or someone you love from seeking treatment for urinary incontinence. Leakage does not have to be a part of life women “just deal with” – there are effective options that will allow you to regain control and get back to just living – spread the word!