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Published on July 21, 2015

Bladder control issues? You aren’t alone

Twenty-five million American adults experience some form of urinary incontinence. If you count yourself in that number, you may not be comfortable admitting it or discussing it, even with your health care provider. But Dr. Jon Heeb of Lawrence Urology offers hope and good news. “Most cases of incontinence are treatable or at the very least manageable,” he says.

Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control with symptoms that can range from mild leaking to uncontrollable wetting. Although men and women are both affected by bladder control issues, some statistics show women may experience incontinence up to four to six times more often than men.

Jon Heeb, MD Lawrence Urology Heeb, who is board certified in urology, says urinary incontinence can happen to anyone, but becomes more common with age. “Many times individuals do not seek treatment or delay treatment due to embarrassment or relating it to being a normal part of aging,” he said.

The National Association for Continence reports that one-third of men and women ages 30 to 70 have experienced loss of bladder control at some point in their adult lives, and two-thirds of men and women age 30 to 70 have never discussed bladder health with their doctors. On average, women wait more than six years from the time they experience symptoms until they obtain treatment.

“There are many reasons men and women may experience these issues,” says Dr. Heeb. “And there are a variety of ways to treat the problem.”

Treatment may be as simple as a change in diet or medications. More frequently, a combination of non-surgical treatments including medicine, behavioral modification, pelvic muscle re-education, collection devices and absorbent products, may help to improve and manage bladder control issues. In some cases, surgical procedures may be helpful.

There are five common types of urinary incontinence:

Stress incontinence

If coughing, laughing, sneezing or other movements that put pressure on the bladder cause you to leak urine, you may have stress incontinence. Physical changes resulting from pregnancy, childbirth and menopause often cause stress incontinence in women.

Urge incontinence

If you lose urine for no apparent reason after suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate, you may have urge incontinence. A common cause of urge incontinence is inappropriate bladder contractions.

Overactive bladder

Overactive bladder occurs when abnormal nerves send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, causing its muscles to squeeze without warning. Voiding up to seven times a day is normal for many women, but women with overactive bladder may find that they must urinate even more frequently.

Functional incontinence

Functional incontinence is the result of physical and medical conditions. People with medical problems that interfere with thinking, moving or communicating may have trouble with bladder control. A person with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, may not think well enough to plan a timely trip to a restroom. A person in a wheelchair may have a hard time getting to a toilet in time.

Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder doesn’t empty properly, causing it to spill over. Weak bladder muscles or a blocked urethra can cause this type of incontinence.

Other types of incontinence

Stress and urge incontinence often occur together in women. Combinations of incontinence — and this combination in particular — are sometimes referred to as mixed incontinence. Transient incontinence is a temporary version of incontinence. Medications, urinary tract infections, mental impairment and restricted mobility can all trigger transient incontinence.

When should you seek help?

Heeb recommends that people experiencing any of the following symptoms should meet with a health care provider to discuss possible treatment options.

  • Leakage of urine that impacts your activities
  • Leakage of urine causing embarrassment
  • Leakage of urine after an operation, such as a hysterectomy, C-section or prostate surgery
  • An urgent need to rush to the bathroom and loss of urine if you do not arrive in time
  • Frequent bladder infections
  • Urinating more frequently than usual without a bladder infection
  • Inability to urinate, also known as urinary retention
  • Progressive weakness of the urinary stream with a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
  • Changes in urination related to a neurological condition such as stroke, spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis

For more information about urinary incontinence treatment options, talk to your healthcare provider. LMH Therapy Services also offers a program staffed by experienced physical therapists who are specially trained in working with patients with urinary incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction. For more information, call 785-505-2712.

Janice Early, MBA, is Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at janice.early@lmh.org.

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