Female urinary incontinence does not discriminate

by Lee-Ann Donegan, Temple Health News Service
Posted 6/13/24

Urinary incontinence, the loss of bladder control, can happen to women regardless of age. It is most often a side effect of childbirth, menopause or weight gain.

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Female urinary incontinence does not discriminate


Urinary incontinence, the loss of bladder control, can happen to women regardless of age. It is most often a side effect of childbirth, menopause or weight gain.

Dr. Joshua Cohn, urologist at the Fox Chase-Temple Urologic Institute, encourages women to seek help at the first sign of a problem. "We see the best results when treatment quickly follows the onset of symptoms," he says. Cohn is a urologic surgeon who performs surgeries to correct urinary incontinence and more at Temple Health-Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Unwanted urine leakage is fairly common, comes with an uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing set of symptoms, and often worsens with age. "We don't want women to suffer any longer than necessary," Cohn says.

Stress urinary incontinence, its most common form, occurs when weak pelvic floor muscles cause small amounts of urine to leak out when stress is placed on the bladder, such as during actions like coughing, sneezing, exercising, laughing, walking, bending or lifting.

In women with an overactive bladder, the signaling between the brain and bladder is out of sync, with the brain telling the bladder to empty prematurely and the bladder muscles to contract and release urine frequently, even if there is little urine in the bladder, leaving women to feel the urgent or frequent need to urinate.

Treatments can help avoid embarrassment

The good news is that most cases of urinary incontinence can be aided and improved with education, targeted exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles, and treatments to prevent and treat incontinence. Treatment protocols differ depending on the unique needs of each patient and the cause of their incontinence.

Your primary care doctor can refer you to a urologist who will test your bladder under stress and perform a urodynamic test, which measures the activity in your bladder as it fills and empties.

Stress urinary incontinence is often treated by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises, medication or, in some cases, a sling procedure, which uses a synthetic material to form a sling to support the urethra, the mechanism through which urine is carried out of the bladder, to reduce or eliminate leakage. It is an outpatient procedure with patients returning to work in approximately three days.

The treatment for overactive bladder can include setting a schedule for urination and limiting your coffee, tea and soda intake, as these can stimulate the bladder. If these behaviors don't work, then Botox injections or medications can be used. Surgery is also an option for these patients.

Cohn encourages women to keep an open mind about treatment. "We often see interventions that cause a minor amount of discomfort make a major difference for many women suffering from urinary incontinence."

"Our team of board-certified urologists works closely with patients to find the solution that will yield the best results and fits into even the busiest of schedules," says Cohn.

Fox Chase-Temple urologists and urogynecologists provide personalized care in Chestnut Hill and multiple regional locations.