Urinary incontinence can be a tough topic to bring up in the doctor’s office, but if you’re constantly leaking or consistently needing to rush to the bathroom, getting help might be easier than you think.
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Cleveland Clinic’s Courtenay Moore, MD, one of the only 30 board-certified, fellowship-trained women in female urology in the United States, offers an overview on different kinds of urinary incontinence.
Types of urinary incontinence
The three types of urinary incontinence are stress, urge and mixed, Dr. Moore says. Stress is the involuntary leakage of urine when there is effort or exertion such as sneezing or coughing. Urge is the strong, sudden need to urinate because of bladder spasms or contractions. Mixed is the combination of the two. All three initially can be treated with physical therapy, and medications are available for treating urge incontinence and overactive bladder.
Hope through surgery
Although there are no FDA-approved medications for stress incontinence, several surgical options are available. The most common is the midurethral sling, Dr. Moore says. The success rate for the midurethral sling, which is performed as an outpatient procedure, is between 90 percent and 95 percent. Very few people have complications, which include bleeding, infection or, rarely, difficulty urinating.
Another alternative is injectable therapy, in which a bulking agent is injected directly into the urethra. This therapy prevents stress incontinence by coating the urethra. Injectable therapy is a quick outpatient procedure, administered using local anesthesia. Generally, injections need to be performed every 12 to 18 months, and the success rate varies.
Decrease your risk
You can lower your risk of stress incontinence by following these tips:
- Maintain a normal weight. One study showed that overweight women who lost 7 percent of body weight had fewer episodes of weekly incontinence.
- If you smoke, quit.
- If you’re expecting, talk to your doctor about elective C-section (although the data is controversial).
- Consider pelvic floor physical therapy during pregnancy to reduce stress incontinence after delivery.
- Get physical. Women who engage in moderate physical activity lower their risk of incontinence by 20 percent to 25 percent.