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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

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Incontinence: A Woman's Little Secret

If you think urinary incontinence only affects older women, think again. Bladder control issues affect younger, active women, too -- are you one of them?

Incontinence Treatments continued...

There's also a traditional Chinese therapy involving vaginal weights, which Galloway says are very effective.

"They are a means to strengthen muscles in the pelvis that control urination. The patient puts the egg in her vagina, and works to hold it there without dropping it," he says. "As her pelvic muscles strengthen, she uses a heavier weight to increase that strength."

Bladder training : By lengthening the time between trips to the bathroom, bladder training can help women with urge incontinence.

You start by urinating frequently -- every 30 minutes or so -- and increasing the time gradually until you're going every three to four hours.

Relaxation exercises -- breathing slowly and deeply when the urge strikes -- may also help. Once the urge passes, wait five minutes and go to the bathroom even if you don't feel like you need to anymore. Slowly increase the amount of waiting time.

Electrical stimulation: This can be used to strengthen muscles with stress incontinence or calm overactive muscles with urge incontinence.

A small probe inserted in the vagina gives quick doses of electrical stimulation to the vaginal wall, Brubaker explains. "It has the same effect as Kegel exercises... and it works as well as medication but without side effects."

Biofeedback : This involves becoming attuned to your body's functioning, to gain control over muscles to suppress urges.

Biofeedback typically involves wearing sensors to track certain bodily functions such as muscle tension, then learning how to control those functions. It can be very effective in controlling bladder muscles, says Brubaker.

Hormone Creams: Estrogen creams are intended to restore the tissue of the vagina and urethra to their normal thickness, says Galloway - but they don't really help incontinence.

"Hormone creams are more effective with vaginal dryness than they are with resolving incontinence," he tells WebMD. "Some [studies] demonstrate significant improvements using hormone creams and others have not shown a benefit."

Bladder Training With Scheduled Toilet Trips: With this technique the clock dictates your toilet visits, not your bladder. Using this method you take routine, planned bathroom trips, usually every two to four hours.

Implants: When collagen or other materials are injected into tissues around the urethra, it provides pressure that helps prevent leakage.

"These injectables have significantly lower side effects and complications compared to medications," Brubaker explains. "The injection needs to be repeated every 12 to 18 months. Some insurance covers injectables, depending on the material used."

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