Urinary incontinence has a reputation of being something only little old ladies have to endure. However, many young people suffer from urinary incontinence. And while more women than men are affected, men can have urinary problems, too. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for urinary incontinence.
"I'm more sensitive now to women when they say they've 'gotta go,'" says
51-year-old professional speaker, author, and prostate cancer survivor Chuck
Gallagher. The Greenville, S.C., resident experienced mild incontinence for six weeks
following his laparoscopic surgery. "Guys don't want to talk about it; it's
embarrassing. They think they have to suck it up and deal with it."
And men aren't the only ones who don't want to talk about their little leaks
or mild incontinence.
According to the...
Behavioral treatment for urinary incontinence. Some people with urinary incontinence may get relief by making simple changes to lifestyle or behavior. If you have stress incontinence, for instance, in which you leak urine when you cough, sneeze, or laugh, your doctor may recommend you limit how much you drink. If you have urge incontinence, in which you get the sudden urge to urinate and can't always make it to the bathroom in time, your doctor may tell you to avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and carbonated drinks, because all can irritate the bladder and make the problem worse. Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, known as Kegels, are recommended for people with stress incontinence, which is due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Kegels can also help people with urge incontinence. Sometimes, Kegels are combined with biofeedback techniques to help you know if you are doing the exercises properly. For urge incontinence, bladder training, sometimes called bladder retraining, can also help. This involves gradually increasing the interval time between trips to the bathroom, working up to longer and longer intervals between bathroom stops.
Devices and absorbent product treatments for urinary incontinence. Protective pads and panty liners can help avoid embarrassing situations. A pessary, a plastic device inserted into the vagina, can help prevent urine leakage by supporting the neck of the bladder; it is most useful for stress incontinence.
Drugs for urinary incontinence. For urge incontinence, medications known as anticholinergics/antimuscarinics (Ditropan, Oxytrol, Enablex, Detrol, Urispas, and Vesicare) can prevent bladder spasms and are available with a doctor's prescription. Also, Botox injected into the bladder muscle causes the bladder to relax, increasing its storage capacity and reducing episodes of urinary incontinence. It can be used for adults that do not respond to or can't use the medications listed above.
Surgical treatment for urinary incontinence. If behavioral and medical treatments for urinary incontinence don't provide enough relief, surgery may help. One procedure works by supporting the bladder so that it returns to its normal position. Another surgical treatment for urinary incontinence, called a sling procedure, is done through a vaginal incision and uses a strap of synthetic mesh or natural tissue to support the urethra, the urine-carrying tube.
When Should You Seek Treatment for Urinary Incontinence?
How do you know when it's time to seek treatment for urinary incontinence? That's difficult to say, but if you notice more urine leaking than previously, are avoiding social events, withdrawing from life, or feeling depressed, it's time to get medical attention.
Where to Go for Urinary Incontinence Treatment
For urinary incontinence treatment, start with your primary care doctor. Tell him or her you are having problems with bladder control. If your primary care doctor is unable to help, ask for a referral to a specialist. Doctors who specialize in treating urinary incontinence include urogynecologists, gynecologists with extra training in urinary incontinence, or urologists, doctors who specialize in problems of the urinary tract system in men and women.
How Successful Is Treatment for Urinary Incontinence?
The outlook is promising for urinary incontinence treatment. About 80% of sufferers who seek treatment for urinary incontinence can improve or even be cured. The best outcome depends, of course, on getting the correct diagnosis and following your doctor's instructions to help improve your condition.
SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians: "Urinary Incontinence: Embarrassing but Treatable." Jennifer Anger, MD, MPH, urologist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. Amy Rosenman, MD, co-author, The Incontinence Solution, urogynecologist, Santa Monica, Ca., associate clinical professor, UCLA. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: "Urge Incontinence." Halina Zynczynski, MD, director, division of Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery, Magee-Women's Hospital, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pa. WebMD Health Guide: "Anticholinergic Medications." American Family Physician, "Selecting Medications for the Treatment of Urinary Incontinence." WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: Urinary Incontinence in Women: National Association for Continence: "Treatment Options for Incontinence." News release, FDA.