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Pelvic floor disorders

April 4, 2016 Art of Aging

Many women are surprised to learn that female pelvic floor disorders such as urinary and fecal incontinence, and bladder emptying issues are common and can occur in women of all ages. In fact, female pelvic floor disorders can affect up to half of adult women.

What causes incontinence?

Incontinence is not an inevitable result of aging, but is particularly common in older people. It is often caused by specific changes in body function that may result from diseases, use of medications, and/or the onset of an illness. Women are most likely to develop incontinence either during pregnancy and childbirth, or after the hormonal changes of menopause, because of weakened pelvic muscles.

What are the symptoms of urinary incontinence?

There are different symptoms of urinary incontinence, the most common pelvic floor disorder:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Pain related to filling the bladder and/or pain related to urination without a proven bladder infection
  • Progressive weakness of the urinary stream with or without a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
  • An increased rate of urination without a proven bladder infection
  • Needing to rush to the restroom and/or losing urine if you do not get to restroom in time
  • Abnormal urination or changes in urination related to a nervous system
  • Abnormality, such as stroke, spinal cord injury, or multiple sclerosis that interferes with urination
  • Leakage of urine that prevents activities or began or continued after surgery

The symptoms of urinary incontinence may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What is the treatment for urinary incontinence?

Specific treatment for urinary incontinence will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health and medical history
  • Expectations for the course of the disease
  • Extent of the disease
  • Your opinion or preference
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

Treatment may include:

  • Behavioral therapies to help people regain control of their pelvic floor muscles
  • Pelvic muscle rehabilitation to improve pelvic muscle tone and prevent leakage
  • Medication including specific drugs for incontinence as well as estrogen therapy, which may be helpful in conjunction with other treatments for postmenopausal women
  • Surgery if the incontinence is related to structural problems such as an abnormally positioned bladder or a blockage
  • Diet modifications (e.g., eliminating caffeine in coffee, soda and tea, and/or eliminating alcohol)

Specialized treatment

The board-certified specialists at the hospitals of Main Line Health—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—are experienced in treating pelvic floor disorders. The urogynecologists and urologists at Main Line Health, together with an experienced team of physical therapists and continence nurses, work to address pelvic floor problems such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, recurring urinary tract infections and sexual dysfunction.