Too Embarrassing to Discuss?
Many women live with a problem that they believe to be untreatable and embarrassing. Too embarrassing, in fact, to even tell their doctors! This problem is urinary incontinence. Even with the television commercials which attempt to put a human face on this problem, many women are not only ashamed of it, but also do not think that there is any useful treatment. This is simply not true!
Loss of control of one's bladder can be caused by a variety of factors. The first and most common reason for incontinence is simply a bladder infection. Many women mistakenly believe that a bladder infection must be associated with symptoms of burning and frequency of urination. In fact, the only symptom of a bladder infection in some women is urinary incontinence. Other symptoms include fatigue, excessive urination, and of course burning with urination. This is obviously a very treatable cause of urinary incontinence.
Generally, there are two major groups of causes of loss of bladder control. The first has to do with the female anatomy and the inability for the muscles around the urethra to hold the urine in. This is usually called stress incontinence. The second has to do with the muscles of the bladder itself. These muscles can tighten and cause the bladder to release urine unexpectedly. This is often called urgency incontinence. There are different causes for this type of incontinence. One has to do with lack of female hormones. The other has to do with neurologic control itself. The treatment will differ. Depending on the type of the urinary incontinence and the cause, your doctor can determine a treatment approach. Once again, many women will be successfully treated.
Women with stress urinary incontinence can often benefit from simple exercises called “Kegel exercises.” These exercises involve tightening the muscles involved in bladder control. There is now even a biofeedback approach for improving these muscles' ability to control the bladder. In some cases, these approaches do not work and surgery must be considered. This is an individual decision which each woman must make with her doctor.
Women with urgency incontinence should undergo a female examination. In fact, all women with loss of bladder control should first undergo a routine urinalysis. If there is no evidence of an infection, then one should have a female examination. If there is evidence of lack of hormones, then an attempt at hormonal therapy may be attempted. If the problem turns out to be a problem with bladder muscle control, them medication may be in order. Some of these medications may cause dry mouth and constipation, and should be discussed thoroughly with ones physician before starting.
To summarize, bladder incontinence is a common problem which is often treatable. Your doctor needs to know about it in order to evaluate and treat the problem. Don’t dispair--not only are you not alone, but there is help available you.