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May 12 2017
Incontinence is common, and it's treatable.
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Millions of American women suffer from incontinence. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have some form of incontinence. Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. It’s a problem that one in three women suffer from, and many studies claim that more than 50% of women over the age of 60 have some degree of urinary incontinence. It can be an embarrassing topic to bring up with friends or family, and most women aren’t even comfortable discussing it with their healthcare provider, which means they’re left wondering what’s normal and what’s not. 

Urinary incontinence has many causes and, fortunately, there are also many ways to achieve the relief you need. I’ll give you brief overview of the most common disorders of incontinence.

Stress incontinence occurs from weakness in the supports that hold up the urethra and bladder and the muscles in the pelvis become too weak to compensate. It’s triggered by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, and other activities.  Childbirth and even simply carrying a pregnancy are the main causes of this damage.  Another common risk factor is obesity. The leakage involved can be as little as a few drops over the course of a year, to leaking urine all the time. Illnesses that cause coughing often bring about temporary episodes of stress incontinence, which can be early clues that the pelvic floor muscles and supports are weakened.  This is the most common type of incontinence in women under the age of 60, but also remains a major cause in women over the age of 60.

Even more annoying and inconvenient is the annoyance called overactive bladder (OAB). If leakage is involved with OAB symptoms, it is called urge incontinence. The problem is that the bladder muscles are working too hard. OAB involves urinary frequency, which is urinating 8 or more times in a 24-hour time window. It also involves urinary urgency, which is an overwhelming, sudden urge to urinate. Nocturia, or getting up out of bed to urinate more than once a night, is typical with OAB sufferers. There are often phases of severe spasms and phases of minimal spasms, even without treatment. You don’t need to have all of these symptoms to have overactive bladder. There are tools available to sort out whether or not symptoms would add up to a diagnosis of OAB, or not.

Every type of urinary incontinence can cause distress and affect quality of life. The good news is that there are different options to treat urinary incontinence in women, and many do not even involve surgical procedures or medication. 

Take the first step in treating urinary incontinence by joining me at our next Health for Me presentation on May 16 at 5:15 p.m. at HFM Harbor Town Campus. HFM Rehab Plus physical therapist Stephanie Simmons and I will discuss the different types of incontinence and treatment options available. We want to help educate and empower you to regain control of your life again. Register for this FREE presentation at hfmhealth.org/HealthForMe. 

William Leach, Jr, DO, FACOG is an obstetrician & gynecologist at HFM Women’s Health. 



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