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A Problem Patients Don’t Want to Talk About

It’s a common condition that many women especially never want to talk to their doctors about: urinary stress incontinence. Even though the condition can greatly interfere with a woman’s quality of life, many are embarrassed and uncomfortable discussing it with their doctors. As a result, the problem may go unaddressed for decades.

This is unfortunate because urinary stress incontinence is a condition that, in most cases, can be treated effectively. This is the involuntary loss of urine that affects millions of women, often during such physical activity as coughing, sneezing, laughing, sex or exercise. It is different than urge incontinence, where one loses urine for no apparent reason after suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate.

Urinary stress incontinence is a defect in the muscles that support the bladder and bladder neck. Typically, a genetic trait, the result of some form of trauma or childbirth aftereffects, it most commonly occurs with older women.

There are many treatment options. Certain patients with mild to moderate urinary stress incontinence may obtain relief through medications. Pelvic floor muscle training (or Kegel exercises), biofeedback and electrical stimulation to strengthen muscles have also proven successful for some women. Another option is a simple 15 – 40 minute procedure called a urinary sling, where a mesh material is inserted underneath the bladder neck to support it and prevent urine leakage by bringing the anatomy back to where it was before the damage. The procedure has a high success rate and is viewed as a permanent solution for women who are no longer planning to have children.

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