An Embarrassing Problem
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed., March 3, 2010
By Sonika Shah, MD
A 51-year-old teacher and mother of two musters the courage to mention she has been wearing absorbent pads for the past few years. Urinary incontinence, or the involuntary leakage of urine, frustrates millions of Americans. Although urinary incontinence becomes more common with increasing age, affecting twice as many women as men, it is not normal at any age.
Don't be embarrassed to inform your health care provider. Your provider will take a history, perform a physical exam and order urine tests. Bring a seven-day dairy detailing what and how much you drink, how often you urinate, and how frequently you leak to offer useful clues to the type of incontinence. In addition, provide a complete list of your medications, including over-the-counter medications.
Stress incontinence is the most common bladder control problem in women. It results when the muscles and tissues supporting the bladder or the urinary sphincter, a ring of muscles surrounding the urethra, weaken. Urine leaks accidently when there is increased pressure against the bladder—such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, jogging or heavy lifting—and the sphincter does not stay closed. These muscles can lose strength through weight gain, sports injuries, prostate cancer treatment in men, menopause, multiple pregnancies, and vaginal childbirths.
Things you can do:
Medical treatments include:
Take steps now to reduce your risk of developing incontinence. Maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking and most importantly, perform daily Kegel exercises.
Dr. Shah is a board-certified internist with Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.