Although you may not hear your friends talk about it, urinary incontinence is common, affecting approximately 25 million adults across the U.S. according to the National Association for Continence.
“It’s quite common for women to experience a small amount of stress incontinence, especially after childbirth and around menopause,” said Sophia Drinis, MD, of Samaritan Urology. “Between the ages of 60 and 80 we see a sharp increase in the number of women who report incontinence.”
Incontinence is most commonly categorized as either stress incontinence or urge incontinence. With stress incontinence, the bladder may leak when there is stress on the pelvic floor muscles, such as during sneezing, laughing or jogging. Urge incontinence is characterized by the strong need to urinate without being able to reach the bathroom in time. Women may also suffer from mixed incontinence, a combination of stress and urge.
“Women will live for years with stress incontinence without seeking help for it,” said Dr. Drinis. “But we actually get extremely good results with non-invasive treatments such as physical therapy.”
Physical therapy treatment addresses the pelvic floor muscles to increase strength and function. Many women need as few as four to six treatment sessions.
Urge incontinence can be very disruptive and Dr. Drinis encourages women who experience the problem to seek help.
“Physical therapy, behavioral techniques and medical and surgical treatment options are all available,” she said. “There are many choices so if the condition is interrupting your life, don’t wait to talk to your doctor.”
Behavioral techniques may include things like bladder training to slowly extend the amount of time between trips to the bathroom, or evaluating your diet and medications for things that may be contributing to the incontinence.
While the majority of people with incontinence are women, a significant number of men also experience this condition. Dr. Drinis states that incontinence in men is often related to prostate problems, and discovering the root problem can then help resolve the incontinence.
“For men or women, incontinence is not a ‘normal’ part of aging,” said Dr. Drinis. “What we don’t want is for people to suffer for years with incontinence that is persistent, and a social or hygienic problem.”