Understanding Bladder Control Problems

Are you increasingly scoping out the closest restroom when you’re in public places? Have you had to make an unexpectedly urgent pit stop while driving to work? Does laughing, sneezing or coughing cause embarrassing leakage? If so, you’re by no means alone. According to the American Urological Association, one in three women has at least one form of urinary incontinence.

Symptoms of bladder control problems can range from losing a few drops of urine to a full bladder leak, and the causes are varied.

“Almost always, symptoms can be traced back to problems with pelvic floor muscles, nerves or connective tissue,” says Dr. Jill Rabin, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. “Often, the cause is associated with natural events that occur in a woman’s life such as childbirth or menopause. Other common causes of bladder control problems include obesity, pelvic surgery, certain medications and diet.”

Identifying the Cause
Many women are embarrassed to discuss bladder control issues with their healthcare provider. In fact, less than half of all women with a urinary incontinence problem actually seek treatment, according to a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente Northwest. Many manage the symptoms on their own and deal with the discomfort of frequent urination, bladder pain or leakage on a daily basis.

The first step in getting help for a bladder control issue is determining the cause or causes of the problem. The three primary types of urinary incontinence are:

Stress urinary incontinence – bladder leakage with coughing, sneezing, laughing or when moving quickly or suddenly as during exercise.

Urge urinary incontinence – a sudden need to urinate urgently that can be difficult to control.

Overactive bladder – a need to urinate often, with short times between.

Some women have one type of urinary incontinence, and others have overlapping symptoms with two or more bladder control issues. Your healthcare provider will start with a history and a physical exam. Often, additional tests are required to pinpoint the cause and how to treat it.

Getting Help
Once a diagnosis has been made, there are highly effective treatments available.  In many cases, non-surgical treatment options are recommended to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the bladder. Diet modification and weight loss can also help many women struggling with leakage problems. For some, medications, injections or surgery will be the right option.

Finding the right treatment for urinary incontinence can sometimes require both time and patience. If one treatment is not working sufficiently, there are often others available. There is no reason to silently struggle with bladder control problems. Thanks to advancements in treatment, urinary leakage does not have to be an inevitable part of a woman’s life.

Have questions related to urinary incontinence or other women’s health issues? Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-KIWH (5494) to speak with a women’s health specialist.