Loss of bladder control plagues millions of women, especially as they get older. But you don’t have to suffer in silence. New treatments can put a stop to the embarrassing problem of stress urinary incontinence (SUI), says Maggie Bisceglia, a certified registered nurse practitioner at Beaufort Memorial.
Q: What is stress urinary incontinence?
SUI is an involuntary leakage of urine that occurs when a physical activity or movement like coughing, sneezing, laughing, running or lifting something heavy puts pressure on your bladder.
Q: What causes it?
Anything that weakens your pelvic floor muscles—the muscles that support your bladder—can cause stress incontinence. Childbirth, menopause, obesity or physical changes associated with aging are common culprits.
Q: Can SUI be treated?
Yes. You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by performing Kegel exercises. Your doctor may recommend supervised pelvic floor therapy with a specially trained physical therapist to ensure you do the exercises correctly. How well it works will depend on whether you perform them regularly. One of the latest advancements in bladder control treatment is a prescription medical device that does the Kegels for you, only much more strongly than you could do them yourself. Sold under the name Apex or Intone, the device strengthens the pelvic floor muscle using intravaginal electrical stimulation. The treatment requires that you use the device five to 10 minutes a day, six days a week for 14 weeks, then twice a week for maintenance. Many women prefer this option because it can be done in the privacy of their home.
For women with a prolapsed bladder, another treatment option is a vaginal pessary, a mechanical device that helps support your bladder base to prevent urine leakage during activity.
Q: Is stress incontinence a normal part of the aging process?
No, although a lot of women accept it as such. They manage the urinary leakage by using incontinence pads, which can be effective, though wearing pads all the time can cause other problems, including a skin rash or yeast infection. (If you use pads and are embarrassed to purchase them at your local grocery store or pharmacy, be aware that they can be ordered online.) When their incontinence is severe, some women will get to the point that they’re afraid to leave the house.
Maggie Bisceglia is a CRNP with Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists. Call 843-522-7820 to schedule an appointment.