It’s an amazing statistic—one out of three women share a common healthcare concern: the uncontrolled leakage of urine—a condition called urinary incontinence. This common condition may interfere with every aspect of a woman’s life, from normal activities of daily living and hygiene, to social activities and even intimacy.
“The effect on a woman’s morale and self esteem can be devastating,” says Andrew Lin, M.D., a urogynecologist at the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health. “The good news is that this typically progressive problem is treatable, and successful treatment is life-changing for so many individuals.”
The specialty of urogynecology includes the diagnosis and treatment of urinary incontinence. The type, cause and severity of the incontinence determine the treatment options. Many cases of incontinence may be corrected or improved with changes in diet, exercise, and muscle retraining. Some typical foods and beverages that adversely affect how the bladder functions are milk, soda and citrus fruits. The majority of incontinence problems can be corrected with outpatient surgery.
Signified by leakage brought on by laughing, coughing or sneezing, stress urinary incontinence limits lifestyles and relationships because of the embarrassment that accompanies odor and wetness. Typically the symptoms worsen over time as pregnancy, childbirth, hormonal changes, prior surgery or obesity can cause the weakening of the pelvic muscles and tissues. The bladder and pelvic floor (the support structure for the bladder) are composed of and controlled by various muscles and muscle groups which can be strengthened with physical therapy. Stress incontinence is also very successfully treated surgically using a sling system.
“The sling procedure is a minimally invasive, highly effective procedure for eliminating stress incontinence,” Dr. Lin explains. “It generally takes less than 20 minutes and can be performed on an outpatient basis.”
The second most common form of urinary incontinence is urge incontinence, which includes the leakage of urine for no apparent reason. With this condition, the bladder, a balloon-like organ which holds urine, suddenly contracts, forcing the urine to leak out. “Urge incontinence can often be treated with medication, physical therapy to strengthen the sphincter muscles, and lifestyle changes such as diet and voiding habits,” according to Heather Rose, a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor disorders and incontinence at the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health.
More than 13 million people in the United States, young and old, experience incontinence at some point in their lives. By the year 2020, the sale of adult diapers nationwide will exceed the sales of baby diapers due to this ever-growing problem. This condition is twice as common in women as in men and people of all ages can be affected.
Urinary incontinence always results from an underlying medical condition. Therefore it is important to diagnose the cause of the problem to assure the correct treatment. In most cases this hidden problem is treatable. In fact, 95 percent of women with stress incontinence treated using a sling device were dry without any further treatment.
The first step in getting treatment for incontinence is talking with your doctor. Urinary incontinence is a very common and treatable condition that shouldn’t interfere with quality of life.
For an appointment with Dr. Lin to discuss incontinence, please call the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health at (707) 646-4100.