Does coughing, laughing, or sneezing fill you with dread? Do you find yourself on constant alert for the nearest bathroom? Is fear of an embarrassing bladder leak keeping you from enjoying social activities? If so, you may be suffering from urinary incontinence.
Many people are embarrassed to discuss this uncomfortable condition with their doctors or believe it's just a natural part of aging so there’s nothing that can be done. In reality, urinary incontinence is a common ailment with a number of effective solutions.
Dr. David Ahdoot, an award-winning board-certified OB/GYN, is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of urinary incontinence at his Burbank and Palmdale, California clinics. After determining the precise cause of your condition, he offers a range of treatment options.
Watching what you eat and drink can have a significant difference in improving bladder control. Alcohol, caffeine, and acidic foods can irritate the bladder and increase the urge to go. Constipation can contribute to urinary incontinence as well, so make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber.
The volume of liquid you take in can also cause issues. Try limiting the amount of liquids consumed to no more than two liters a day, stopping several hours before bedtime to help ease leaking at night.
Try to achieve and maintain a healthy weight; shedding just a few pounds can make a huge difference. And if you’re a smoker, quit. Smoking affects more than just your lungs and can have a significant impact on many of your body’s systems.
Finally, try training your bladder by waiting for longer and longer intervals between urinating. The goal should be 3-4 hours during the day and 4-8 hours at night.
Pelvic floor muscle therapy
Kegel exercises improve the muscle strength of the pelvic floor and can help reduce leakage. At first, it can be a little bit challenging to identify those muscles, so you might try to stop your urine mid-stream. The muscles you feel at work are your pelvic floor muscles. (Biofeedback using sensors can help people who need a little more assistance.)
To strengthen the fast twitch muscles, quickly clench then release. For slow twitch muscles, tighten gradually and hold (ideally for 10 seconds, but you may need to work up to that), then rest for 10 seconds. Aim for three sets of each type two times a day.
If lifestyle changes and muscle strengthening don't bring enough relief, Dr. Ahdoot often recommends medication. Anticholinergics are a class of drugs that help relax the bladder and can reduce the urge to go.
Another option is a low-dose topical estrogen cream, patch, or ring applied in the vaginal and urethral areas to help tone and reinvigorate, reducing urinary issues. (Estrogen in pill form, however, can worsen incontinence problems.)
Other options include a medication that allows the bladder to hold more urine by relaxing the muscle or an injectable drug that helps prevent muscle contractions and can last up to nine months.
Depending on the type and nature of your incontinence, a number of surgical options are available. Examples include a sling placed under the urethra or stitches placed on each side of the neck of the bladder and then attached to raise the urethra and keep it in the proper position.
Another procedure involves the injection of a synthetic substance near the urethra to narrow the opening. Nerve stimulation devices can also be implanted or used temporarily to help control bladder issues.
While urinary incontinence can have a big impact on your life, there is a wide range of treatments available. Call or click to book an appointment with Dr. Ahdoot today.