The word “incontinence” can spark fear in even the bravest people, conjuring up all kinds of images from soaked pants to adult diapers. But urinary incontinence doesn’t have to be endured in silence. About 1 in 3 women live with some form of incontinence and are often too embarrassed to speak with their doctors, thinking they just have to live with inconvenient leaks and accidents. Learn the truth about incontinence, including your options for reducing and even stopping leaks.
The Problem: Urinary Incontinence
Understanding what causes bladder leakage helps you determine what treatment works for your level of incontinence. Stress urinary incontinence happens when your pelvic floor muscles are compromised, which can result from childbirth, aging, or damage during surgery. Each of these scenarios can stretch or weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which are crucial to support the bladder. When this support deteriorates, it’s more difficult to contract the muscles that control urine flow, and leaks begin.
The 5 Myths
1. Incontinence is an unavoidable part of aging.
Age does not directly cause incontinence. Just as with any other muscle group, it’s important to stay fit so the pelvic floor muscles can do their job: support your pelvic organs (bladder, rectum, vagina). When these muscles are stretched from childbirth or weakened from lack of use as you age, they cannot support the bladder effectively. Kegel exercises should be part of every woman’s routine to maintain a healthy pelvic floor.
2. Only women suffer from incontinence.
Although women are more prone to incontinence because of childbirth, about 11% of men report having urinary incontinence. Of this group, there is a higher rate of urge urinary incontinence because of prostate surgery. Urge incontinence is when there’s a frequent urge to urinate, followed by an accident before the patient can reach a toilet. Causes include infection, damage from surgery, or more complicated disorders.
3. Medication can fix incontinence.
There is no available medication that is approved by the FDA to treat stress urinary incontinence. Some drugs can relax the bladder muscles to help with overactive bladders, but these cannot strengthen a weakened pelvic floor.
4. Surgery is the only cure for incontinence.
Pelvic mesh surgery has been controversial and is a last resort for severe incontinence. Your doctor can suggest many conservative options that are proven to help with bladder leaks. In addition to Kegel exercises, some of these treatments include Kegel weights, trainers, and noninvasive exercisers, such as ELITONE.
5. Incontinence is irreversible.
When you start noticing leaks, you may think this is the beginning of the inevitable end! But stress urinary incontinence can be reversible, and the earlier you address the problem, the better. As with any muscle, your pelvic muscles lose their shape and strength without proper exercise. So talk to your doctor about how to tone your pelvic floor, as well as eliminating risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, and chronic coughing.
The Solution: Get Help Now!
Stress urinary incontinence can be managed and even eliminated in some cases. The key is to recognize the symptoms early (accidents are hard to miss!) and talk to your health care professional as soon as possible to come up with a plan. Here are some treatment options:
- Kegels. You can do these pelvic floor exercises on your own, but it’s hard to know if you’re contracting the correct muscles intensely enough to make a difference.
- Kegel Devices. Conservative treatments include at-home Kegel exercisers like ELITONE, a noninvasive, FDA-cleared device you can wear under your clothes while you go about your day. This electrical stimulation device gently does your Kegels for you.
- Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy. This specialized physical therapy helps you identify your pelvic floor muscles and exercise them correctly. However, this type of treatment requires office visits and is invasive.
- Injections. Injectable bulk up the area around the urethra so it’s easier to stop the urine flow. This treatment requires repeated office visits and is invasive.
- Surgery. Pelvic mesh implant surgery is a last resort. This surgery uses a sling to artificially support the bladder to keep the urethra closed. Surgery is expensive and can have complications.
When you begin to notice incontinence, make an appointment to see your doctor. The sooner you start strengthening your pelvic floor, the fewer leaks you’ll experience. Leak-free living is within reach!