You do not have to live with urinary incontinence

Feb 13,2014
Whether it is in response to a television commercial for a new over-the-counter medication, or self-diagnosis via the Internet, in many cases making treatment decisions without consulting your doctor can delay healing, or even make things worse.

A prime example of this is female urinary incontinence. Daytime television commercials promote the ease of use of a new patch for “overactive bladder,” no doubt targeting the millions of women suffering from incontinence. But female urinary incontinence, though common, may occur for a complex variety of reasons.

With thorough assessment and carefully considered treatment decisions, the discomfort and irritation of urinary incontinence is often unnecessary. It is a condition with a high likelihood of improving with treatment – as long as it is the right treatment. 

Though the perceived embarrassment of talking with your doctor about urinary incontinence may make an over-the-counter patch seem like an attractive option, it is an option that can leave you without relief, if the treatment does not match the condition. Consulting with your provider, and possibly a specialist, can help determine what is causing your condition and the best way to treat it.

The two most common types of female urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and urge (or frequency) incontinence. (Women can have a combination of both.) Stress incontinence often occurs when there is stress on the pelvic floor — through laughter, coughing, jogging or other impact activities — that makes the bladder leak. Stress incontinence is related to a weak pelvic floor, which can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth (even decades later), but there can be other causes, too. Urge or frequency incontinence is characterized by a strong urge to urinate, but the inability to get to the toilet in time. The condition can also present as increased frequency of urination — going more than every two hours. Some women suffer from a combination of stress and urge or frequency incontinence.

It’s important to find out exactly which form of incontinence you are experiencing, through an exam and evaluation. Physicians use a sophisticated test called Complex Urodynamics to ensure an accurate diagnosis is made and to help create an individualized treatment plan.

In some cases, pelvic floor physical therapy is a great first option for treatment. In cases where physical therapy does not completely alleviate the incontinence, medication and surgical options are available.

The good news is that urinary incontinence is a treatable condition, but the most important step is to consult with your doctor to ensure effective treatment.

To learn more about treatment options and the range of services available to diagnose and treat female urinary incontinence, visit samhealth.org/WomensServices.