As many as 50% of women experience urinary incontinence at some point, and as many as 10-20% of them have urine leakage that is disruptive to their lives. Even though it’s so widespread, urinary incontinence isn’t normal and there are treatments that can help.
If you have urinary incontinence, you may feel uncomfortable bringing it up during your appointment with Dr. Parisa Pourzand. You shouldn’t, though, because continence is part of good gynecological health, and Dr. Pourzand can offer treatments that help.
Before we talk about effective treatments for urinary incontinence, we want to explain who is at risk and why it happens. As turns out, not all urinary incontinence is the same.
Women experience urinary incontinence far more often than men, so your sex is a risk factor. Age also matters. Older women are the most likely to experience urine leakage. There are several types of urinary incontinence, including:
Stress incontinence - leaking when you laugh, sneeze, or exercise
Urge incontinence - a sudden, intense need to urinate followed by leakage
Overflow incontinence - a constant dribble caused by the inability to empty your bladder
Functional incontinence - an impairment prevents you from reaching the bathroom
It’s possible to have multiple types of incontinence—called mixed incontinence—and there are temporary situations, such as a bladder infection that can cause incontinence. Stress incontinence is by far the most common form of involuntary urine loss.
Treatments begin with the least invasive, so the first step in stopping urinary incontinence is changing things in your day-to-day life. For example, avoiding constipation may help. Some people find that scheduling the times they go to the bathroom helps because it keeps your bladder from becoming very full and more prone to leakage.
Managing your fluid intake could be another step. You probably only need to consume a total of 64 ounces of fluid per day, though you may need more if you’re sweating profusely or it’s very hot. You may need to drink smaller amounts more frequently instead of larger amounts all at once or avoid drinking fluid three to four hours before you go to bed.
Avoiding caffeinated, alcoholic, and carbonated beverages could reduce urinary incontinence as well.
Another intervention that’s often effective is learning and doing pelvic floor muscle exercises. These are the muscles that support your urethra, and they may become weaker over time, or during pregnancy and delivery. Finally, bladder training may help you go to the bathroom less frequently and “teach” your bladder to hold more urine.
There are several different medications that may be used to treat incontinence. Dr. Pourzand recommends medications based on your overall health, your situations, and the cause of your incontinence, among other factors.
A urethral insert is a small, disposable device that is similar to a tampon that you may insert before an activity that you know is likely to cause incontinence, such a strenuous exercise. The device prevents leakage and is removed before you urinate.
A pessary is a device that you insert and wear throughout the day. It supports your urethra and helps to prevent leakage.
In some instances, surgery is the best option. Dr. Pourzand may recommend a bladder sling, which supports your urethra and the part of your bladder that connects to your urethra. The extra support helps to keep your urethra closed when you cough or sneeze.
Another type of procedure is called bladder neck suspension, and it also provides support to the area where your bladder and urethra connect.
If you have pelvic organ prolapse, surgery can repair the damaged tissue. This surgery is usually performed in combination with a sling procedure and doesn’t correct incontinence on its own.
If you have urine leakage, you should know that it’s not normal and you don’t have to live with it. Treatments are available and Dr. Pourzand can recommend what’s likely to work best for you. Schedule an appointment today!