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Incontinence: More Common Than You Think

Feb. 14, 2024 3:11 pm

Did you know that 50% of women have incontinence at some point in their life? Here's what you can do to take control.

Incontinence is the loss of urine in an uncontrollable fashion. There are many reasons as to why people have it. Some of them are very easy to treat successfully and are easily cured, and some of them are very challenging to cure. But we can usually get significant improvement with treatment. Incontinence is one of my favorite conditions to see a new patient with; I can often cure them outright and almost always make a big improvement for them with fairly little intervention.

Most people put up with it and hope that it's going to get better, or put if off until tomorrow, only to realize that several years have passed and it's only gotten worse.

In generations past, people have looked at the loss of urine as a normal part of aging or normal consequences of childbearing, both of which I think are mistakes. What I would encourage people to think about is the fact that although incontinence is not painful, it's not normal. People really don't like to deal with it because it's embarrassing. But they should realize, it's very common, and often very easy to treat.

However, correctly treating incontinence means also that you have an understanding of what the true diagnosis is, very much like a headache. There are many different causes for it and the headache itself is usually a symptom of an underlying abnormality of some type, just as incontinence can be caused by many different things. 

Relief for women dealing with bladder control issues typically takes one of three routes:

  • It can be as simple as a 10-minute outpatient procedure or a prescription for  medication.
  • It may require a combination of therapies to get someone to a much better function.
  • Sometimes we need to treat an underlying, undiagnosed urinary tract infection, which should be evaluated further, as it could possibly be a sign of other diseases such as MS or diabetes. 

There are varying levels of incontinence, all of which can be diagnosed and treated to help you return to a normal, active lifestyle.

Spasm and bladder irritability:

  • Conditions where a person is urinating frequently and up a lot at night with a sudden sense of urgency (similar to the television commercials you see).
  • Tends to be a neurologic, irritational aspect to the bladder.
  • There are a handful of different medications that are typically used to treat this.

Stress incontinence:
  • People leak a small amount of predictable urine every time they cough, sneeze, lift or jump.
  • Will not get better with time.
  • Often times this can be treated effectively with proper Kegel exercises, but a lot of times that treatment requires ongoing and continuous exercise by the person, and sometimes even then it won't hold up over time.
  • Should that fail, we can proceed with a small, 15-minute, outpatient procedure that is very successful (such as some type of sling procedure), which in the past was a very big surgery and nowadays really can be done quickly with a very fast return to full function status.

When incontinence affects how you function, what you're doing, your clothing choices or travel plans, it's just a shame not to get an evaluation and treatment-because so often, it is actually fairly easy to fix with many different treatment modalities. 

Suffice it to say, there are many treatments for many different causes in the many unique types of patients out there. But I would encourage readers to not for a minute think that this is a normal part of aging and something they simply have to "put up with."  I would encourage them to seek medical evaluation and intervention, because if you're thinking about the fact that you're leaking urine, then it is probably affecting you on a daily basis.

Dr. Eric Eberts is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Women's Care of Wisconsin. Contact Dr. Eberts at 920-729-7105.

The providers at Women's Care of Wisconsin are devoted to you and your health. That means having the most advanced techniques, up-to-date educational information and a compassionate, caring staff. Our providers offer a well-rounded approach to your OB/GYN care, one that meets both your physical and emotional needs throughout every phase of your life. We call it our Circle of Care. And it begins with you.

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