Simple Solutions Can Help You Outsmart Incontinence

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If you experience times when you lose control of your bladder, it might help to know that this is a common problem for women of all ages. It may not be a life-threatening situation, but urinary incontinence sure can be annoying  and – at times – embarrassing.

If this is you, be sure to talk with your doctor. Certain diseases or conditions can cause loss of bladder control. And, more important, your doctor can help you to find a solution to your condition. The solution doesn’t necessarily mean surgery, either.

Many Options to Try

There are a number of simple solutions women can try, says Joseph Henderson, MD, who specializes in Female Pelvic Medicine and Urology at University Hospitals.

“The good news is that many women can improve their bladder control or completely end their incontinence,” Dr. Henderson says. “There are great therapies for stress incontinence or overactive bladder that have excellent results and minimal side effects."

Simple Solutions

Most patients can solve their bladder control problems with one or more of these simple, first-line strategies, Dr. Henderson says. If these simple therapies do not work, physicians have other, more complex methods to try, Dr. Henderson says.

“Most patients do not need to go on to these advanced therapies,” Dr. Henderson says. “Seventy percent of them are successfully treated with first- and second-line therapies.”

Here, according to Dr. Henderson, are some of the simple options your doctor might first suggest for treating incontinence.

Limit your fluid intake: The first strategy you might try is to simply limit how much you drink or limit drinks during certain times of the day. Other dietary strategies can include avoiding caffeine and alcohol and preventing chronic constipation.

Bladder training: This method involves gradually building up the ability to hold your urine for longer and longer periods. Your doctor can help you set a schedule based on your individual factors with a goal of urinating once every three or four hours.

Pelvic floor muscle training: These exercises involve tensing and releasing the muscles that you use to stop urinating. Your doctor can tell you how many times and how long to do these exercises. Biofeedback also can be used to help women learn how to do the exercises correctly.

Medications: Doctors can use several different kinds of medicines to help improve urinary incontinence, depending on the type you have.

Advanced Therapies for Urinary Incontinence

The more advanced therapies include:

Botox: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Botox injections for urinary incontinence to alleviate bladder spasms. Injections are done in the doctor’s office using a topical anesthetic or in the operating room with the patient under light sedation.

Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation: This treatment consists of a weekly 30-minute session that can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. A fine needle is inserted near the ankle. Pulses of electricity are sent into the needle to travel through the tibial nerve, which runs up your leg and connects to nerves that control your bladder muscles. The treatment is done without sedation in a doctor’s office. Eighty percent of people who try this method report a 50 percent reduction in episodes of incontinence.

Bladder "pacemaker": Called neuromodulation, this treatment involves implanting a pacemaker-like device with a small lead that stimulates the nerve that is causing the bladder to spasm. The device, which runs on an external battery, is implanted in an operating room with the patient under light sedation.

Don’t Give Up

Dr. Henderson says it’s important to keep trying to find the bladder control solution that works for you.

“These are all options that we can talk about when you come in and visit because these are all individualized,” he says. “And something is going to work.”

Related links

University Hospitals has the only program in Ohio to combine urology, urogynecology and colorectal surgery for female pelvic floor disorders. Learn more.

Learn more about urinary incontinence care for women at University Hospitals.

UH allows you to schedule an appointment online for select UH physicians and specialties, including urology. Or use our easy online tool to find a doctor and book an appointment at a time that's convenient for you.

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