Some health topics are hard to talk about—even to a doctor, it seems. Urinary incontinence is one of them, even though it is common among women in their later years. Despite feeling embarrassed, there are easy solutions for this uneasy ailment.
“Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) are what we gynecologists call the silent shames that women endure. I am amazed how many women will not seek care because they are embarrassed, or think, ‘I had kids, now I just have to live with it.’ That’s not the case. There are a lot of treatments that are simple and can bring great relief,” said a TMH Medical Clinic provider.
As women age, their bladder and pelvic muscles weaken, especially after menopause. According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), 13 million Americans are incontinent and 85% are women. Also, 50% of women will experience some degree of pelvic organ prolapse.
The good news is that most cases of prolapse and incontinence can be cured or improved. The gynecologists at TMH offer several options, ranging from behavioral management exercises, to pelvic floor rehab and surgery.
There are different types of urinary incontinence, or loss of bladder control. Urinary incontinence can be mild—as in a few, infrequent dribbles when you cough or sneeze—to more severe—where you feel a sudden urge and can’t stop urine from escaping before you reach the bathroom, which is urge incontinence. Stress incontinence (brought on by a cough, sneeze or heavy lifting) is common, and is caused by a weakness in the neck of the bladder. Another type of incontinence is overflow, where you can’t fully empty your bladder and only have a weak stream when you go.
Women who have experienced childbirth, had a hysterectomy, have a neurological disorder such as MS or Parkinson’s, take heart or high blood pressure medicines, or have a urinary tract infection are at a higher risk for incontinence, according to the Mayo Clinic. Smoking, alcohol and caffeine agitate incontinence.
Sometimes, a few, well-placed stitches make all the difference: “With stress incontinence, we can place a sling to support the bladder so it will not leak when women cough, sneeze or laugh,” a TMH Medical Clinic provider said.
The simple surgery is often done in just one day, yet surgery is often a last result. TMH offers advanced laparoscopic surgeries for incontinence and prolapse, and for removing diseased reproductive organs. Ellis paved the way in northwestern Colorado for total laparoscopic hysterectomies and has been performing them for many years.
“With laparoscopic surgery, incisions are smaller, less invasive and patients heal much more quickly,” a TMH Medical Clinic provider said. The hospital offers all types of surgeries for incontinence, and only needs to refer particularly complicated cases to urogynecologists in Denver. TMH has all the advanced equipment and training that’s needed, outside of robotic surgery.
There are several diagnostic tests doctors can perform to determine the best treatment, and there are many ways to treat incontinence besides surgery. If you are struggling with incontinence or prolapse, see your doctor. You can get back to an active life.