I am writing this blog to let you know that incontinence is common in middle aged and older women. One in four women struggle at least occasionally with incontinence. One in five people over 40 deal with an overactive bladder or inability to control the urge and reach the toilet in a timely fashion. One in three women over 80 are incontinent.
Unfortunately many doctors don’t raise the issue with patients during visits, and many patients are uncomfortable of bringing up the subject with their healthcare provider.
The critical valves in a woman’s pelvis seem to become a problem as we age. As women age they get leaky valves in the colon, heart, and the lower urinary tract. The quality of the supporting tissues and structures fail as women get older. It fails as women have other types of treatments. Neurologically, things can fail. In this country, one of the problems we have is morbid obesity and that certainly increases the risk of urinary incontinence, leakage.
For most women with urinary incontinence there are almost always conservative options that don’t involve surgery.
Often very simple lifestyle changes can help patients tremendously, without any invasive therapy, without any medication, without any surgeries.
It begins with the diet. There are certain foods that are irritative to the lower urinary tract. The most common culprits are alcohol, caffeine, spicy food, acidic food.
Next are exercises: Doing pelvic floor exercises, Kegel exercises, for both men and women, can be helpful.
Are there medical and surgical options and when do those come into play? Yes, there are medications for treating overactive bladder.
Surgical options are something that are considred after they’ve failed conservative therapies.
The most important thing in this population is improving quality of life, and in order to get at that, your doctor needs to look at the entire person. Patients need to understand that they need to get involved in long-term exercise routines and dietary modification will be helpful.
Most of incontinence is not life-threatening, but if people leak and they can’t see, and they’re up in the middle of the night and they fall, the mortality rates are high.
Bottom Line: Urinary incontinence is a common condition that impacts the quality of life of millions of American women. Help is available and often conservative treatments will control the problem. For more information consult with your gynecologist or your urologist.