Leaky Plumbing is Not a Normal Part of Aging
As we get older we start to accept that we are not as young as we once were- and that we can’t get away with some of the things we once did- wearing midriffs and bell bottom jeans to name a couple. But, there are things that we take on as our new normal which we shouldn’t, a leaky bladder is just that.
Women often joke that they can’t jump on a trampoline or laugh too hard without wetting themselves. They avoid certain exercises and plan bathroom trips to prevent leakage, all valiant efforts—but they don’t address the problem. We as women must get comfortable having the uncomfortable conversation with our doctors about our bladder and it treating us unfairly.
Nearly 33 million Americans suffer from some form of bladder incontinence, which makes it that much more shocking that we aren’t talking or even asking about treatment options more. Instead we spend a fortune each year in the incontinence aisle trying to cover up the real issues. Often times it’s the myths that keep us from seeking a real solution, those myths that tell us incontinence is a normal part of aging, nothing can be done for it, and that surgery is the only way to effectively treat it.
“What many women don’t know is that incontinence or bladder dysfunction can almost always be treated effectively,” says Dr. Barbara Stricker-Friedman, MD, Obstetrician-Gynecologist at OB/GYN Associates of Attleboro. “The two most common types of bladder related issues in women are stress or activity related incontinence, and overactive bladder or urged related issues. Stress incontinence is the leaking associated with coughing, sneezing, lifting or exercising. Urge incontinence is the sudden “I got to go” sensation that is caused by a spasm in the bladder. Most incontinence can in fact be cured or significantly alleviated with therapy.”
“If you suffer from incontinence, you need to have a candid conversation with your practitioner,” recommends Dr. Stricker-Friedman. “Once that happens, you can be referred to a doctor who specializes in effective treatment. Not all doctors specialize in female incontinence so it is important to find one that does.”
Once an appointment is made, expect to have a full discussion of your medical history and have diagnostic tests done to ensure that your struggle isn’t related to something as easy to treat as a urinary tract infection. Once a proper diagnosis is made, you will then discuss the various treatment options available starting with simple lifestyle changes, physical therapy, or relaxing the bladder muscle with medications or Botox. “Other choices include bulking agents and vaginal slings as well neuromodulatory treatments such as Peripheral Tibial Nerve Stimulation (PTNS). During a PTNS treatment, we place a very thin needle into your ankle to stimulate the nerves that relax the bladder, says Dr. Stricker-Friedman. “There is also the option of having a device similar to a pacemaker made specifically for the bladder implanted to reset the nerves that are causing your bladder to spasm.”