TMH Living Well: You don’t have to suffer with urinary incontinence
Some health topics are hard to talk about — even to a doctor, it seems. Urinary incontinence is one of them, even though it is common among women in their later years. Despite feeling embarrassed, there are easy solutions for this uneasy ailment.
“Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) are what we gynecologists call the silent shames that women endure,” said Dr. Scott Ellis, OBGYN with The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic. “I am amazed how many women will not seek care because they are embarrassed, or think, ‘I had kids, now I just have to live with it.’ That’s not the case. There are a lot of treatments that are simple and can bring great relief.”
As women age, their bladder and pelvic muscles weaken, especially after menopause. According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), 13 million Americans are incontinent and 85 percent are women. Also, 50 percent of women will experience some degree of pelvic organ prolapse.
The good news is that most cases of prolapse and incontinence can be cured or improved. The gynecologists at TMH offer several options, ranging from behavioral management exercises to pelvic floor rehab and surgery.
There are different types of urinary incontinence, or loss of bladder control. Urinary incontinence can be mild — as in a few, infrequent dribbles when you cough or sneeze — to more severe — where you feel a sudden urge and can’t stop urine from escaping before you reach the bathroom. Stress incontinence brought on by a cough, sneeze or heavy lifting is common, and is caused by a weakness in the neck of the bladder. Urge incontinence is the latter. Another type of incontinence is overflow, where you can’t fully empty your bladder and only have a weak stream when you go.
Women who have experienced childbirth, had a hysterectomy, have a neurological disorder such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s, take heart or high blood pressure medicines, or have a urinary tract infection are at a higher risk for incontinence, according to the Mayo Clinic. Smoking, alcohol and caffeine agitate incontinence.
Sometimes, a few well-placed stitches make all the difference. The simple surgery is often done in just one day, yet Dr. Ellis likes to use surgery as a last result.
“With stress incontinence, we can place a sling to support the bladder so it will not leak when women cough, sneeze or laugh. Or we can place a small, pacemaker-like device near the sacral nerve that stimulates the nerve with mild electrical pulses, improving continence,” Ellis said.
TMH offers advanced laparoscopic surgeries for incontinence and prolapse and for removing diseased reproductive organs. Ellis paved the way in Northwest Colorado for total laparoscopic hysterectomies and has been performing them for many years.
“We have all the advanced equipment and training that we need. The only technique we don’t offer is robotic surgery, but in my mind it is not that necessary for GYN procedures,” Ellis stated.
There are several diagnostic tests doctors can perform to determine the best treatment, and there are many ways to treat incontinence besides surgery. If you are struggling with incontinence or prolapse, see your doctor. You can get back to an active life.
For more information on The Memorial Hospital’s gynecologists Dr. Scott Ellis and Dr. Eileen Joyce visit our website or call 970-826-2420.
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