Women’s Incontinence: Not So Funny!
In the office of Matthew A. Barker, MD, Avera Medical Group urogynecologist, a clever sign says, “I laughed so hard, tears ran down my leg!”
But if you find yourself running to the restroom every 30 minutes, or run the risk of “leaking,” you probably want a solution first before you can safely enjoy a chuckle.
For many women, incontinence is a taboo topic deemed too inappropriate or embarrassing to mention. If it is mentioned, it’s represented in a light, goofy way. Remember a certain commercial when the woman in the rowboat had to “go right now”? While not necessarily life-threatening, incontinence in women (and men) can be intrusive and reduce your quality of life.
“In the past, women were hesitant to talk about incontinence,” said Barker, “but times are changing. Women are feeling more empowered to address issues that are affecting their life.”
Incontinence is the result of various stressors and/or damage to the pelvic floor muscles. Some of the most common include childbirth, an accident, aging and multiple sclerosis. Even overthinking or worrying about an inconvenient urgency can send you rushing to the restroom.
Nearly half of women will experience incontinence some time in their lives, for one reason or another, according to Barker. While women at any age can struggle with incontinence, it most often shows up in their 40s or 50s. Without proper treatment, incontinence usually worsens with age.
A variety of surgical and nonsurgical options are available to women searching for an answer. Your health care provider may offer a combination of the following to help you reach the results you deserve:
- Outpatient therapies – Minimally invasive surgical options give patients with persistent incontinence a potential cure.
- Physical therapy – Pelvic floor muscle therapies can provide better opportunity for a more effective outcome.
- Prescriptions – Sometimes medication will manage your incontinence just fine.
- BOTOX/acupuncture – Injections directly into the bladder can curb the urgency. Acupuncture needles inserted into the right meridian points may also help individuals.
- Home medical equipment – Incontinence products like disposable underwear and pads and vaginal inserts make for a $6 to $8 billion industry, and sometimes it takes a couple tries to find something that meets your needs.
Experts at Avera Home Medical Equipment assist patients in finding the right product at about the same prices as supermarkets and discount stores. Other home medical equipment, such as bedside commodes and bathroom grab bars, may also be useful.
- Pelvic floor muscle training – Kegel exercises, correctly performed, can potentially strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. “However, 38 percent of women cannot isolate this particular muscle in their lower abdomen,” said Barker.
- Lifestyle changes – Making alterations to your lifestyle can help prevent urgent trips to the restroom during the night, at the office or while on the road. Limit fluids, coffee, tea and diuretic foods from your diet, especially when a restroom is not readily available.
“Incontinence can be cured, or effectively managed,” offered Barker. “You don’t have to live uncomfortably, nor should you accept it.”
Today, primary care physicians are more apt to screen for incontinence. Take the first step and schedule an appointment with your physician and have a conversation that may improve your quality of life.