For many women, urinary incontinence is a serious and embarrassing problem that prevents them from fully enjoying life’s most precious moments. While some may be too embarrassed to discuss it, even with their doctor, they are certainly not alone. Nearly one third of women over the age of 45 suffer from incontinence, and it affects as many as half of all women over 65. If you are one of the millions suffering in silence, you should know that a wide range of effective and noninvasive treatment options can help you regain the comfort, confidence and active lifestyle you once knew.
What’s My Type?
In most cases, urinary incontinence is an entirely treatable condition, and one that may be completely curable with the right solution. The first step is to find out which type of incontinence you have. The two main types are stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge incontinence (overactive bladder). Women with SUI tend to leak when they sneeze, cough, laugh or strain, such as when lifting something heavy or exercising. On the other hand, urge incontinence is the result of overactive bladder muscles that contract and cause a sudden, overwhelming urge to use the restroom and make it sometimes impossible to hold it long enough to get there.
Some women suffer from a combination of both SUI and urge incontinence, while other less common types include overflow incontinence and transient incontinence. Only your doctor can help you determine which type you have, which is why it is important to make an appointment to find out about your options.
What Are My Options?
For urge incontinence, simple lifestyle changes — like using the restroom frequently, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, limiting fluid intake at night or even losing a few pounds — can reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. Medications can also help restore bladder control for those with urge incontinence. Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor and improve bladder control for those with SUI, and there are a few other options, like the use of a pessary or bulking injections, but these can be uncomfortable and generally are not good, long-term solutions. Of course, absorbent pads and liners can help deal with leakage, but these do nothing to reduce or eliminate symptoms.
Is There a Permanent Solution?
For many women with SUI — the most common type — modern urethral support slings can provide permanent relief of symptoms literally within hours of the typically short, 15-minute outpatient procedure. Today’s minimally invasive sling procedures may require only a very small incision through which a surgical mesh sling is implanted to support the urethra, providing nearly immediate relief. Slings are highly effective, with up to 90 percent success rates in treating SUI depending on the type of procedure performed and products used. The recovery time is very minimal — in most cases, you can return to normal, nonstrenuous activities (including work) shortly after the procedure.
The most important step you can take toward solving your incontinence issues is to talk to your doctor. With such a wide range of treatment options available, you could be on the road to reclaiming your life in no time.
More information at www.livelifedry.com.
Lora A. Plaskon, M.D., M.S.E., is a female urologic specialist at Athena Urology, the only urology clinic operated exclusively by women, for women, located in Issaquah, Washington. She blends holistic philosophy with state-of-the-art tools to tailor treatments specifically to meet the individual needs of each patient. She earned an M.D. at Indiana University and an M.S. in Epidemiology at the University of Washington-Seattle. She is an Associate Fellow with the American College of Surgeons, a member of the Association of Women Surgeons and a Board-Certified Member of the American Urological Association.
Attention, Grands! Do you have urinary incontinence? Please email GRAND Magazine and tell us how you’re handling it.