One in three women is affected by urinary incontinence, or urinary leakage. Although there are different forms of incontinence, stress urinary incontinence is the most common.
Although this is a condition that can affect women at any age, from young athletes to women who are entering menopause, women are more likely to be affected by it as they age. But don’t be fooled—you don’t have to accept it as a normal part of aging.
“Many women believe that urinary incontinence is just another symptom of aging and can be hesitant to talk to their doctor about it, but this isn’t a condition that you have to live with,” explains C Sage Claydon, MD, urogynecologist at Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital. “There are treatment options available for urinary incontinence.”
Causes of Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is typically a result of physical changes over the course of a woman’s lifetime. Over the course of time, this series of changes results in weakened pelvic muscles, which impairs the urethra from closing completely. This results in a leakage of urine during everyday activities that put pressure on the bladder, like sneezing, laughing, coughing, or lifting.
“For women with SUI, urinary leakage during these activities can range from a few drops of urine to a steady stream,” says Dr. Claydon. “There is no ‘normal’ amount of urinary leakage. If you’re experiencing any leakage, talk to your physician about your symptoms.”
Although physical changes are the most common culprits for SUI, other lifestyle factors can worsen your symptoms. Obesity, smoking, and high-impact activities like over the course of many years are some contributing factors.
Treatment for Stress Urinary Incontinence
Depending on the severity of your SUI, your physician can help determine what treatment option is best for you. For mild cases, your symptoms may be easily addressed through healthy lifestyle changes, scheduled trips to the restroom, controlled fluid consumption, or Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter.
“Some women experience relief just from a combination of these lifestyle changes and pelvic floor exercises. But for women who are still experiencing symptoms, there are other options available that provide long-term relief,” says Dr. Claydon.
Women with moderate symptoms of SI may benefit from the use of devices like a vaginal pessary or pelvic floor muscle trainer. For women with more severe symptoms of SI, surgical options are available. Your physician can help you determine which procedure is best for you.
The bottom line: You don’t have to live with leakage, says Dr. Claydon.
“Many women might be embarrassed to talk about the topic of urinary leakage, but there are treatment options available. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.”
Main Line Health offers one of the largest and most comprehensive treatment programs for female pelvic disorders in the Philadelphia area. Visit our website to learn more about our female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery services.