How To Treat Urinary Incontinence: Woman’s Edition

If it’s only 10 a.m. and you have to take yet another bathroom break, you may have overactive bladder (OAB.) OAB can be linked with urge incontinence in certain situations. For example,  not being able to make it to the bathroom in time. This type of urinary leakage is often treated with lifestyle modification or medications. But did you know there is another type of urinary incontinence that is only a procedure can treat?

Stress incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine associated with day-to-day activities that put pressure on the bladder. Stress urinary incontinence is typically caused by extra stress to the bladder muscles. This includes, laughing, coughing, sneezing, lifting something heavy, or strenuous physical activity, such as running. In its most severe form, stress incontinence may even occur with small movements. For example, rolling over in bed or standing up.

Note: Women with stress incontinence may also experience OAB symptoms such as urinary frequency. However, in many cases, they do so in an attempt to keep the bladder empty, thus minimizing stress incontinence. Fortunately, there are some treatments to keep in mind if you or someone you know is suffering from stress incontinence. 

What you can change day-to-day:

  • Improve your overall health: Losing excess weight, treating a chronic cough, and quitting smoking habits may lessen your risk and improve your symptoms. 
  • Kegel exercises – You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter with kegel exercises. Just be sure you are performing them regularly and correctly for the most impact.
  • Schedule bathroom breaks – Consider “timed voiding” or using the restroom every few hours whether or not you have the urge. Emptying the bladder more frequently may reduce the number or severity of incontinence episodes.

If you have tried changing your lifestyle and are still leaking:

The mainstay of treatment for stress urinary incontinence is surgical. Likewise, the purpose of any procedure or surgery for stress urinary incontinence is to provide more support for the urethral sphincter. This is a muscle that is responsible for maintaining urinary control as you go through your day-to-day activities. Here are the most common procedures used to treat stress urinary incontinence:

  • Synthetic midurethral sling   This remains the gold-standard for treating stress incontinence in women. In this intervention, the surgeon implants a sling that supports the urethra almost like a hammock. The operation is performed under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis and lasts approximately thirty to forty-five minutes. 
  • Injectable bulking agents – This is a less invasive alternative to the sling. In this procedure, a synthetic polymer is injected into tissues around the urethra to “bulk” the area around the urethra. As a result, the sphincter is able to close, meaning urine will not leak out. This intervention is less invasive but is less likely to achieve long-term success.

If you are experiencing stress urinary incontinence and would like to speak with a physician about your options, the doctors of Urology Specialists of the Carolinas, PLLC are here to help. Contact us today for an appointment.