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Urinary incontinence common among female athletes

Lankenau Medical Center February 9, 2015 General Wellness

Whether it’s running a marathon, completing a triathlon, or signing up for an intense round of CrossFit classes, women aren’t afraid to challenge themselves when it comes to their fitness. And while an active lifestyle is beneficial for your overall health, intense workouts like these can take their toll on your body, manifesting themselves through side effects like joint pain and, particularly for women, urinary incontinence.

“Stress-induced urinary incontinence is relatively common for active women, whether they’re runners, dancers, or frequent high-impact exercisers,” says Darlene Gaynor-Krupnick, DO, FACOS, urologist at Lankenau Medical Center. Dr. Gaynor-Krupnick is trained in female pelvic medicine, reconstructive surgery, and neurourology.

According to a 2007 survey of 550 female athletes, more than 25 percent of respondents reported having symptoms of urinary incontinence while participating in high-impact sports, and more than 15 percent admitted that it had negatively impacted their quality of life and made them reconsider whether or not to participate in sports.

Although stress-induced urinary incontinence can be an uncomfortable side effect of an active lifestyle, it’s an easily treatable one that shouldn’t keep you from the activities you love, explains Dr. Gaynor-Krupnick.

Treatment options for urinary incontinence

Depending on the severity of your incontinence symptoms, there are a range of treatment options available for women. For those with minor symptoms, Kegel exercises can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter, and behavioral therapies like controlled fluid consumption and healthy lifestyle changes can also decrease the likelihood of leakage.

For more severe cases, women can explore minimally-invasive surgical treatment options, including a vaginal sling or a series of injectable bulking agents, which increase resistance to urinary flow.

“The treatment options for stress-induced urinary incontinence are well-studied and have been shown to be very successful and life-changing for the women who pursue them,” says Dr. Gaynor-Krupnick.

And the pursuit of treatment, she says, can be the most difficult part for many women.

“What keeps many women from exploring treatment for exercise-induced urinary incontinence is embarrassment or fear of the unknown,” she says. “But an appointment with a urologist can answer your questions and help you determine which treatment option to pursue.”

While urinary leakage is the most common side effect of stress-induced urinary incontinence, another symptom is blood in the urine. Although it can be worrisome, it’s not uncommon as a result of high-impact activity or long-distance running. If you’re experiencing either of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician, who can help you determine the appropriate treatment.

To schedule an appointment with a urologist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.