It might happen when you sneeze or maybe when you exercise. It might happen
so fast you aren’t able to make it to the bathroom. Living with
a leaky bladder, also known as urinary incontinence, can be frustrating
at the very least. While as many as 13 million Americans are affected,
often times women are too embarrassed to seek treatment. Knowing the causes
and options available to you may provide you with the courage and understanding
you need to talk with your doctor.
The most common type of urinary incontinence is stress incontinence, which
occurs when urine expels due to pressure on the bladder caused by movement
such as coughing. Other women may have urge incontinence, or an overactive
bladder. This kind causes a sudden, unexpected urge to urinate.
Urinary incontinence may be associated with pelvic organ prolapse —
a condition that occurs when the muscles and tissues in your pelvis weaken,
causing the feeling of pressure and bulging. In some cases, the uterus
can drop through the vaginal opening. This condition affects nearly 40
percent of women over 65 and 30 percent of women under 65.
“Prolapse and incontinence can significantly impact a woman’s
quality of life,” said
Patricia Wallace, MD, FACOG, board-certified gynecologist and female pelvic medicine and reconstructive
Mission Hospital. “While it often stems from pregnancy or childbirth, as having a
baby can weaken a woman’s pelvic muscles, other health problems
such as stroke or brain injury can also cause incontinence.”
While these conditions may keep you from feeling comfortable during everyday
activities, the good news is there are different treatment options available.
Your doctor can help you address the cause of your leaky bladder, and may
suggest treatments as simple as lifestyle changes. For some women, certain
medicines or bladder training may be the answer, which can help you gradually
hold more urine over time. If non-surgical treatment options do not offer
relief, your doctor may recommend a minimally invasive procedure, such
as Botox for the bladder muscle, urethral bulking agents or a sling procedure,
where a small piece of tissue or mesh is added under the urethra (the
tube that moves urine out of your body) to help it close properly.
“There are many different treatments for incontinence and pelvic
prolapse, most of which are done in the outpatient setting,” Dr.
Wallace said. “If prolapse surgery is required, it is typically
done vaginally — more advanced prolapse can be repaired using the
robotic da Vinci Surgical System, which reduces incision size and post-operative
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.