Of all the changes that women expect to come with age, stress urinary incontinence is one that may be most unwelcome. Near mid-life, many women may become aware of just how common this condition is. Stress urinary incontinence can start slowly, involving minor urine leakage when a woman coughs, runs or jumps, or sneezes. The condition may progress to leakage when walking or laughing. It is the most common type of incontinence in women but does not need to be perceived as a normal side effect of aging. Here, we discuss what may cause stress urinary incontinence and what may be done about this problem.
The pelvic floor muscles are largely responsible for controlling urine flow. Therefore, anything that can weaken or stretch these muscles can result in stress urinary incontinence. Common factors include weight gain and childbirth. Age-related muscle changes can also influence the development of this condition. Urine may leak when pressure is placed on the bladder or in response to other factors, so a urologist may treat multiple causes starting with the most relevant. While some women do need surgery to repair pelvic floor muscles, doctors nearly always suggest conservative strategies first. These may include one or more of the following:
- Kegel exercises. This is the most common name for pelvic floor exercises. Kegels can be done at anytime without being obvious. Though it can take some practice getting used to performing Kegels, studies indicate that women can achieve marked improvement in bladder control, if not full correction of the problem.
- A doctor may recommend that a woman reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption. If other triggers are suspected, a doctor may advise a woman to keep a food log. Patients are often advised to empty the bladder frequently to prevent leakage.
- Medical devices. Products such as a pessary may be prescribed to support the bladder. Women may try the Poise Impressa bladder control product to reduce urine leakage, as well. This product is available without a prescription.
Surgery may be considered when stress urinary incontinence has become so severe that these more conservative therapies are ineffective. Surgical intervention may involve creating a sling or suspension network to better support the neck of the bladder. The surgery has a history of success but is not a guarantee that symptoms will not return.
Stress urinary incontinence can be treated. Discover your ideal path to a more confident life. Call our Palm Desert office at (760) 346-1133.