Urinary incontinence or leakage is one subject that most people do not want to discuss — sometimes not even with their doctor. But for women, it is actually a common concern. And those who struggle with incontinence issues today have many treatment options to help them find the right solution.
If urinary leakages have begun to affect your daily life, you can get help that fits your situation. Here are just a few of the ways you and your doctor can attack the problem discreetly and effectively.
1. Lifestyle Modification
Certainly, the most simple and cost-effective solution for some sufferers is to alter their behavior in order to better manage the condition. For instance, if you find that you have nighttime urges to use the bathroom but are unable to make it in time (known as urge incontinence), your doctor may suggest limiting liquid intake after a certain hour.
Other lifestyle changes might include quitting smoking or alcohol, losing weight, or reducing caffeine intake in order to reduce irritation of the bladder. Or you may choose to practice timed voiding, where you empty your bladder on a set schedule — often beginning with every hour and stretching out the time as you go.
2. Muscle Exercises
The most common reason that women, in particular, experience urinary leakage is that the muscles around the urethra and bladder do not function as well as they once did. This may simply be due to age, stress on the urethra (often experienced after women have had babies), or even one of several physical diseases.
You can retrain the pelvic muscles through physical therapy (commonly called Kegel exercises) that help to make the muscles function in a more normal manner. This treatment has the benefit of being noninvasive and very inexpensive. It will require some time (often three to six months) and diligence on your part, but your doctor can help keep you on track to experience the most benefit.
Some medications and injections can help stimulate or relax the muscles around your urinary tract to work better. Botox, for example, can help tighten up the muscles where needed, preventing some leakage. Also, a few medications may help the problem in a noninvasive, but more temporary manner — either by stimulating muscles or helping the bladder void more completely.
As with any medication or injected treatment, some side effects or risks may exist. Your doctor will discuss these with you so that you make the best, most informed choice for yourself.
4. Support Procedures
Some women may experience leakage due to additional stress on the urethra or the subtle changing of bladder location within their abdomen. This may occur naturally over time or it might be from stress on the woman’s body (usually during pregnancy and childbirth). If your doctor determines that the urethra is pressed upon or stressed, a few small procedures can help.
The first, and most simple, is a pessary or vaginal insert. This small implant goes inside the affected area to help physically support the urethra. A sling-type device can also provide support to a bladder that is not in the ideal position, relieving pressure on the urethra.
Which solution is right for your particular situation? The best way to find the answer is to meet with an experienced doctor who specializes in women’s health issues.
At Rappahannock Women’s Health Center, we are ready to help. Our practitioners can aid in identifying your specific type of incontinence and developing a personalized treatment plan. Call for an appointment today. We look forward to speaking with you and answering all your urinary leakage questions and concerns.