Urinary incontinence affects as many as 40 percent of women to some degree.
And yet, many never talk about it with their doctor.
Stress and urge incontinence are very common and easy to treat. Stress is the involuntary loss of urine while coughing, sneezing, laughing, sex or exercise. Urge is an involuntary loss of urine caused by abnormal bladder contractions.
A woman has to decide how much the problem bothers her and whether it’s important enough to get an evaluation and explore treatment. One patient may say, “I have to change my clothes twice a week, but that’s okay,” and another may say “I have some drops every three weeks or so and I can’t stand it.” It’s very much a personal decision.
While stress incontinence can occur at any age, most patients tend to be older when estrogen levels decline. Many have had multiple pregnancies. Diabetes, obesity, and many commonly used medications can also contribute to symptoms.
Conservative treatments include medications with few, if any, side effects, including an over-the-counter patch. Kegel exercises work effectively for women who leak only a few drops while sneezing, laughing or coughing by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Behavioral therapy is also offered.
Doctors have had success in inserting a very narrow strip of mesh material underneath the bladder neck – like a hammock – to bring the anatomy back to where it was before it became weakened. The solution is permanent and the recovery is very quick with life-altering results.
According to experts, the biggest problem is not the treatment, but rather convincing women that this a problem they do not have to live with.