What to Do if You Suffer From Incontinence (More Than Half of Women Do)
If you’ve ever felt a little bit of, ahem, leaking during a workout, you may be among the 55 percent of women in the country with urinary incontinence.
Little accidents when you exercise, cough or sneeze are more common than you may think. Though gynecologists and urologists treat incontinence, there are also specialists who can help, says Andrew Siegel, MD, female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery specialist at NJ Urology in Bloomfield and author of The Kegel Fix.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) rears its ugly head with physical exertion and effort, sneezing or coughing. SUI is the result of weakened pelvic floor muscles or a faulty urethra (the tube that carries urine out of body). Pregnancy and childbirth are leading causes. Other culprits include constipation, chronic cough, heavy lifting, high impact sports, obesity and menopause.
Urgency urinary incontinence (UUI) is associated with too much activity in the bladder. While experts can’t pinpoint a cause, they know that age, obesity and chronic urinary tract infections are contributors.
According to Courtenay Moore, MD, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, remedies include:
• Incontinence liners or briefs available at pharmacies as a first line of defense
• Pelvic floor exercises, like Kegels (strong pelvic floor muscles help prevent your bladder from leaking under pressure). Start by alternately tightening and releasing your pelvic floor muscles for five seconds each. Work up to three sets of 25 reps daily. Sticking with the exercises is the best proactive measure you can take to keep incontinence at bay.
• An incontinence pessary, a removable plastic support device
• Behavioral therapies, like going to the bathroom on a regular schedule or before activities that cause leaking, and cutting back on drinks can also help, says James Whiteside, MD, an OB/GYN at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine.
• A surgical injection into the urethra or a mid-urethral sling
• Weight loss
Reducing caffeine and fluid intake, going to the bathroom more often, losing weight and pelvic floor exercises have all been proven effective. Doctors may also prescribe medication, inject Botox into the bladder or stimulate the sacral nerve, the area that controls the everyday function of your pelvic floor.
New Orleans native Karen B. Gibbs is a freelance writer specializing in lifestyle.
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