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The Real Skinny on Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence, the involuntary leakage of urine, is a common and distressing problem for many women. While the rate of incontinence increases with age and after delivering a baby, female incontinence affects women of all ages, and there are many therapies available to reduce leakage and improve your quality of life.

Women with urinary incontinence often do not seek medical care. Patients share they are not bothered by their symptoms, others feel ashamed, were led to believe there are no therapies, or they have been offered only a limited range of treatment options. Approximately 25 percent of young women, 50 percent of middle-aged women and 75 percent of older women have some degree of urinary incontinence. This data shows women in our lives suffer from a common medical issue that has a variety of ways to get relief.

There are two main types of urinary incontinence: Stress Incontinence is the loss of urine with physical activity, coughing or sneezing; and Urge Incontinence is leakage after strong urgency and frequency. There are many options and medical services available locally to help women with each type.

For Stress Incontinence, strengthening the pelvic floor muscles via Kegel exercises can have a profound impact and dramatically improve quality of life. Learning the proper Kegel technique to perform these exercises correctly is critical to them being effective. There are other options besides Kegel exercises, such as a minimally invasive bulking agent introduced into the urethra and bladder. Success rates for this new treatment are near 90 percent at preventing leakage, and last up to 10 years.

In regards to Urge Incontinence, the options can be tailored to the patient. Behavioral modification and diet changes can help, and sometimes medications are needed. While a prescription can greatly help, there are two new treatments for women who want to avoid taking medicine.

Stimulating the posterior tibial nerve, the small nerve near the ankle, can help regulate the bladder function. It’s similar to acupuncture and has been used in eastern medicine for quite some time. A second option and a surprising “game changer” for Urge Incontinence is Botox, which can be injected into the bladder muscle. Just as Botox relaxes the muscles of the face and reduces wrinkles, it can relax the muscles of the bladder; this procedure is typically done once a year and eliminates all symptoms.

If you or a loved one are experiencing incontinence, please talk with your primary care provider or contact Barton Urology to understand options. Safe, accessible medical services are available to improve quality of life and help you feel your best.

Dr. Brian Steixner is a Board-certified Urologist treating men, women, and children for incontinence and a variety of urological issues at Barton Urology in South Lake Tahoe. To view a complete list of patient services, visit bartonhealth.org/urology.