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Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center

New Help for Incontinence

New devices are alleviating this embarrassing problem.
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WebMD Feature

Any time 57-year-old Brenda Cayton of Grimesland, NC, went on a road trip, she had to study her route carefully to make sure she could find a restroom every half hour or so.

"If I so much as sneezed, I would absolutely drown myself," Cayton says.

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Diagnosing Overactive Bladder

Even though bladder problems affect some 33 million adults in the U.S., it can be an embarrassing subject to discuss, even with your doctor. That’s why overactive bladder, also known as OAB or urge incontinence, is often called the "hidden condition." You might believe, as many people do, that overactive bladder is just an unpleasant but inescapable part of getting older. Actually it isn’t -- and there is something you can do. Seeing your doctor and having tests for overactive bladder can help you...

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Cayton suffered from "stress incontinence" -- a condition where urine leaks when a woman coughs, sneezes, laughs, runs, or lifts something heavy. It's surprisingly common, but difficult for patients to discuss. According to the American Urological Association in Washington, D.C., an estimated 10 million women in the United States aged 25 and above suffer from some form of incontinence.

Most often, stress incontinence develops when the pelvic floor muscles weaken as a consequence of childbirth or normal aging, says Andrew Duxbury, M.D., assistant professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

Urge incontinence, another form, affects mainly older women and occurs when the pelvic muscles contract inappropriately. It results in an unexpected, often uncontrollable urge to urinate. Some women also suffer from mixed incontinence, a combination of the two.

In any form, incontinence is likely to isolate a woman who has it. Cayton, for instance, often skipped social gatherings because of her condition.

The good news? You don't have to suffer in silence. According to the Center for Aging at the University of Alabama, incontinence can be cured or controlled 80% of the time. Physicians usually recommend the least aggressive treatments first: behavioral modification, such as biofeedback, or physical therapies, such as electrical stimulation or different types of Kegel exercises. Some medications also prove helpful.

More invasive treatments include the injection of collagen, which causes the tissues surrounding the urethra to swell and close off the base of the bladder. If pelvic tissues or sphincter muscles have collapsed, doctors may suggest reconstructive surgery. In other cases, surgical devices can be inserted or tissues tucked to relieve pressure on weak or stressed muscles.

What's New

One of the latest therapies for incontinence is a device known as the NeoControl, an office chair fitted with magnets in its seat. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June 1998 for the treatment of all forms of incontinence in women, the NeoControl was studied at the Cleveland Clinic and at hospitals and medical clinics in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Orlando.

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