The National Association for Continence states "that while only one out of twelve incontinent patients in the US actually report their symptoms to their doctors, approximately 80% can be cured or improved." Unfortunately, women wait an average of 3 years before admitting their incontinence to a health care provider. A persistent myth is that incontinence is a natural part of aging. The cause of incontinence is often multi-faceted and many combined factors, other than age, are often responsible. These factors may include childbirth, hormonal status, previous surgery, muscle dysfunction or weakness, physical injury or medication, to name a few. Urinary incontinence is the body's inability to control muscles that prevent accidental leakage of urine out of the body. It affects more than 25 million Americans, who are mostly women. There are 4 types of urinary continence. They are:
- Stress urinary incontinence: The leakage of urine during activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing and exercise
- Urge incontinence: An intensely strong urge to urinate, followed by leakage, even after using the restroom.
- Mixed incontinence: Experiencing symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence.
- Overflow incontinence: The bladder never completely empties, causing leakage.
The most common of these types is stress urinary incontinence. It affects women of all ages from young mothers to senior citizens. It is an inevitable part of aging that can be related to several factors including pregnancy and natural childbirth, strenuous activities/exercise, menopausal hormone changes, and prior gynecological surgeries. The muscles and tissues of the urethra weaken due to these factors, causing them not to function properly, and allowing involuntary leakage of urine out of the body. Depending on the severity of incontinence and your general state of health, treatment is available. These treatments may be muscle retraining/behavioral therapy, medication, bulking agents, or surgery. At Habersham OB/GYN, we want to make sure that the treatment used is what's best for you. Together, we can determine what the best action is for you. As a treatment option being offered, Biofeedback "takes the guesswork out of pelvic muscle training" because it enables the patient to improve pelvic muscle function through muscle awareness, in a non-invasive way, which, when combined with a home exercise program, leads to increased muscle strength and improved coordination. A 1998 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Burgio reports that "patients treated with biofeedback showed a significantly greater reduction in urinary incontinence than a second group who received pharmaceutical intervention."
Because the female urinary tract is close to the vagina as well as the rectum, special conditions and problems can occur in women. Examples of such problems include bladder problems during pregnancy, after childbirth, or after a hysterectomy. Also, in pregnancy, a urinary tract infection is more likely to travel to the kidneys, potentially causing premature delivery. For reasons poorly understood, bladder control problems and urinary tract infections are more common in women than men. Statistics show that one in 5 women will develop a urinary tract infection sometime in their life, with common recurrences. Changes in lifestyle and daily activity can help improve or resolve some symptoms. As to avoid the common and recurrent problems of the urinary tract, one should work on changing any poor dietary habits, including drinking more water instead of sugary and caffeine-loaded drinks and exercising regularly. Should you think you have any urinary tract problems, please contact your health care provider at Habersham OB/GYN.
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