Many American men and women suffer from urinary incontinence and many people suffer without telling anyone. Do you know what urinary incontinence is and how to relieve the symptoms?
What Is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence means a person leaks urine by accident. According to the Urology Care Foundation, urinary incontinence is not a disease. Incontinence is a symptom of many conditions. The cause of incontinence can differ for men and women, but it is not hereditary and is not a normal part of aging.
The National Institute of Aging states that urinary incontinence can happen for many reasons. For example, urinary tract infections, pregnancy, vaginal infection or irritation or constipation. Some medicines can cause bladder control problems that last a short time.
When incontinence lasts longer, it may be due to:
- Weak bladder muscles
- Overactive bladder muscles
- Weak pelvic floor muscles
- Damage to nerves that control the bladder from diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease
- Diseases such as arthritis that may make it difficult to get to the bathroom in time
- Pelvic organ prolapse
Most incontinence in men is related to the prostate gland. Male incontinence may be caused by:
- Blockage from an enlarged prostate in men
- Injury, or damage to nerves or muscles from surgery
- An enlarged prostate gland
How Can I Treat Urinary Incontinence?
Many patients of all ages would rather suffer in silence than discuss incontinence issues with their primary care physicians. If you have had bladder control issues for at least three months, consider seeking treatment.
Sarah Randolph-Kaminski, PT, DHSc, coordinator of pelvic health services at Franciscan Health, urges physicians to ask patients about any incontinence issues, approximately 80 percent of incontinence problems are due to a lack of muscle support, which can be corrected with pelvic floor exercises.
"Pelvic floor therapy is NOT just doing Kegels exercises," said Randolph-Kaminski. “While pelvic floor strengthening exercises may play a role in improving incontinence, when they are performed incorrectly or in the presence of pelvic pain, patients may notice no improvement or actually a worsening of symptoms. That's why it is imperative to be evaluated and trained by a physical therapist who specializes in treating pelvic floor disorders.”
Contrary to popular belief, pelvic floor therapy isn’t just for older or postmenopausal women. Primary care physicians should consider screening high school and college female athletes for urinary incontinence as well as younger women throughout their childbearing years.
"The good news is there are many treatment options," said Brent Suozzi, MD, an urogynecologist and independent physician who chooses to practice with Franciscan Health. "Most patients do well with non-surgical options."
Pelvic floor therapists most commonly treat stress incontinence and overactive bladder, but other diagnoses include:
- Bowel incontinence
- Constipation and outlet dysfunction
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Chronic abdominal pain
Sessions typically last 45 to 60 minutes, and insurance coverage is verified before treatment is initiated.
"After four to six sessions, patients should expect to see a 50 percent reduction in leakage," said Randolph-Kaminski.
Learn more about pelvic health rehabilitation at Franciscan Health or talk with your physician.