Are you afraid of experiencing an embarrassing leak each time you sneeze, cough, or even laugh? This condition, known as stress bladder incontinence, is very common, but there are plenty of treatment options that can allow those who suffer from it to live a normal life.
What is stress urinary incontinence, and how is it treated? Read on to learn more!
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI): The Basics
Let’s start with the basics—what is stress incontinence? This condition occurs in both men and women but is more common in females. It causes an involuntary loss of urine when the bladder is stressed due to physical activity. It affects close to 8 million women in the United States alone.
This condition is typically related to physical changes including:
- Estrogen deficiency
- Pelvic or gynecological surgery
- Chronic constipation
Each of these issues can lead to SSI due to the way they damage or weaken the pelvic muscles that support the urethra and bladder. Luckily, up to 80% of female pressure incontinence is treatable.
There are several different options when it comes to treatment for incontinence in women. They range from simple exercises you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to minimally invasive treatments and even surgery. Here’s a look at the most common options.
Many women hesitate to seek treatment until they experience an embarrassing situation in public. One of the reasons is that they fear undergoing intense treatment.
The good news is, you can start your own treatment plan at home to strengthen your pelvic muscles. Kegel exercises are easy to perform and are very effective.
Other exercises, like squats and bridges, can also engage your pelvic muscles and may help improve incontinence.
Bladder training is one successful behavioral technique that’s easy to practice at home. You can do this by trying to wait at least 10 minutes after you feel the urge to urinate. Keep practicing this until you’re able to wait at least 2.5 to 3.5 hours between trips to the bathroom.
You can also try double-voiding, which involves urinating, waiting a few minutes, and then attempting to urinate again. Another method is going to the bathroom every two to four hours regardless of whether you have the urge or not.
As estrogen levels decline, the urethra and vaginal tissue gets thinner. Hormone creams can help regulate hormone levels and thicken these tissues back to a healthy state. This reduces the chances that you’ll experience leakage.
When incontinence is associated with an overactive bladder, botulinum toxin type A (Botox) injected into the bladder muscle may help. This is usually only prescribed if other medications have not been successful.
Bulking Material Injections
This treatment involves injecting a synthetic material into the tissue around the urethra. This helps to keep the urethra closed so that urine can’t easily leak out. Although it’s less invasive than many of the other options, it also tends to be less effective.
Patients who elect to try this instead of surgery should prepare themselves to undergo this treatment multiple times.
Electrical stimulation is another effective and minimally invasive treatment option. It involves sending a mild electric current through the body and into the nerves in the pelvic muscles and lower back.
Generally, women have found that a 15-minute session twice a day for 12 weeks can help relieve their stress incontinence symptoms. This treatment can be done at home using a vaginal or anal electrode.
For severe incontinence or an overactive bladder that hasn’t responded to other treatment methods, doctors may recommend doing this treatment by placing electrodes under the skin in the low back or leg.
Some women respond well to medical devices. A urethral insert is a small device that resembles a tampon. It’s inserted in the urethra to prevent leakage during specific activities (like playing tennis) and removed before you urinate.
Another option is a pessary, which is a stiff ring that’s inserted in the vagina and worn all day. This is most effective when incontinence is caused by a prolapse. It helps to prevent urinary leakage by holding up the bladder.
There was a time when surgery as a treatment for incontinence was very invasive, painful, and required a long recovery time. However, new surgical treatments have developed in recent years that make surgery much less of a big deal.
Sling procedures use a mesh or other synthetic material to create a “sling” around your bladder neck and urethra. This helps relieve stress incontinence by keeping the urethra closed, particularly when you sneeze or cough.
One of the newest sling procedures uses a device called Gynecare TVT. It creates a “tension-free” solution that’s less likely to result in over-correcting. It’s inserted through an outpatient procedure that only takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Bladder neck suspension also supports the bladder neck and urethra. It’s done under general or spinal anesthesia suing an incision in your abdomen.
What Is Stress Urinary Incontinence? Now You Know!
Now that you know the answer to the question “What is stress urinary incontinence?” you understand that it’s a treatable condition and nothing to be embarrassed about.