Having incontinence, or involuntary leakage of urine, may be an embarrassing and inconvenient condition, but there are effective ways to treat it and improve quality of life, said a urogynecologist from Baylor College of Medicine.
"Many men and women with incontinence are not open to talking about their struggle with the condition, some so much that they are embarrassed to seek treatment and can become depressed and have high anxiety," said Dr. Apurva Pancholy, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at BCM. "This is a problem many people – young and old – suffer from, and treatment can help significantly."
It’s important to be informed about incontinence and talk openly with your doctor about your struggle with the condition, Pancholy said.
Different types of incontinence
The most common types of incontinence include stress incontinence, urge incontinence and mixed incontinence. They are more prevalent in different groups, Pancholy said.
Stress incontinence is the loss of urine during physical activity such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise. Urge incontinence is involuntary loss of urine with/without any notice.
"Although we see urge incontinence in all age groups, we see stress incontinence occur in the younger population while risk of urge incontinence increases with age," said Pancholy.
Mixed incontinence is a mix of both stress and urge incontinence.
What causes incontinence?
Pancholy said stress incontinence could be caused by the loss of strength of the urethra (a tube that connects the urinary bladder to the genitals for the removal of fluids out of the body) or urethral hypermobility or failure of the urethra to close.
Urge incontinence is mainly attributable to muscle or nerve overactivity, Pancholy said.
Who is most susceptible to get it?
Males and females both can have some form of incontinence, Pancholy said.
"Females are more likely to have stress incontinence because anatomically they have a shorter urethra," said Pancholy.
How can it be treated?
Pancholy said the good news is that treatment works.
"Stress incontinence can be treated with a minimally invasive surgery to implant a synthetic mid-urethral sling," said Pancholy. "Urge incontinence requires a different approach. Medications are used to relax the bladder muscles and involuntary spasms along with bladder retraining and pelvic floor physical therapy."
In some cases, medication may not help for urge incontinence. "There are other, more invasive options such as neuromodulation therapy that can help."
"Treatment can definitely improve a patient’s quality of life," said Pancholy. "Do not be afraid to seek care."