Do you pee when you sneeze? Officials discuss how to combat incontinence
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Women who experience bladder control issues are not alone, and officials said no one has to just live with leakage.
Bladder control, bladder incontinence, urinary incontinence, peeing when coughing; whatever you might call it, it’s an issue that affects many women.
It’s not just an aging issue. Urinary leakage affects women of all ages. There is a certain stigma to it that keeps many women from getting treatment.
One in 4 women over the age of 18 experience episodes of urinary incontinence, according to the National Association for Continence.
In addition to physical discomfort, women experience emotional pain and embarrassment, isolation and fear of ridicule that often prevent them from seeking treatment.
According to Norton Healthcare, on average, a woman will live with incontinence for more than six years before seeking medical advice, due to embarrassment or believing myths such as “incontinence is just a part of aging or being a woman.”
“Think of a woman’s pelvic floor muscle like a trampoline,” Dr. Sarah Kane, urogynecologist with Norton Urogynecology Center said. “Sometimes the muscles wear out through a lifetime of activity, including heavy lifting, chronic coughing, constipation and childbirth. If the muscles of the pelvic floor and urethra are weak, this can allow leaking.”
Chances of weakened pelvic muscles increase with subsequent pregnancies, and there’s also evidence of a genetic predisposition to incontinence issues. Other risk factors for stress incontinence include obesity and previous gynecologic surgery, such as hysterectomy.
The two most common types of bladder control issues that lead to urinary incontinence are:
- Urinary stress incontinence: This type includes an involuntary leaking of urine when a woman coughs, sneezes or laughs. This is the most common type, and is often a symptom of a weakened pelvic floor.
- Urge incontinence: In this type, the bladder contracts when it shouldn’t, and urine leaks through the sphincter muscles that hold the bladder closed. It is sometimes called overactive bladder.
A common treatment for both types is Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor. A woman can find the muscles by stopping and starting the urine stream. Regular exercises to strengthen these muscles can improve bladder control symptoms.
A urogynecologist or pelvic floor physical therapist can evaluate if the patient is doing the exercises effectively or if there are additional exercises to perform.
Doctors can help a patient evaluate the full range of treatments available and offer a customized solution. Whether that is medication, surgical procedures, internal or external devices, physical therapy, behavior modification, injections or a combination of treatment options, a urogynecologist can help the patient reach her treatment goals.
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