Urinary incontinence (UI) can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable problem. The fear of having an accident and the discomfort of leaking urine can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life. But did you know it may also affect your overall health? Fortunately, there may be a permanent treatment solution that can end the discomfort and embarrassment, and alleviate the risk of other associated health issues often linked to UI.
To explore the solution, we must first understand the cause. The most common form of UI, stress urinary incontinence (SUI), is the result of a weakening in the pelvic floor muscles that support the urethra. During times of sudden pressure, such as a sneeze or cough, the muscles that would normally hold the urethra in place fail to provide proper support and a momentary loss of bladder control can occur, causing leakage of urine. Childbirth and aging can contribute to this loss of muscle support, and the problem can be hereditary, passed on from one generation to another.
Women who suffer from troublesome SUI symptoms often turn first to absorbent pads and adult diaper products to capture leaked urine. While this may be a convenient and readily available solution, it certainly is not without complications. Many women retreat from normal social interaction out of fear that others may detect the smell of urine in their presence.
Wearing pads can create a hygiene problem as well. Constant contact with urine in this sensitive area can cause excoriation, or breakdown of the skin, which can be painful and increase the risk of infection. Women who are forced to wear pads continuously also often deal with recurrent yeast and bacterial infections, which can be terribly aggravating.
Aside from these direct physical symptoms, SUI can also cause reclusive behavior that can lead to social withdrawal and, eventually, possibly depression. SUI symptoms can make it difficult to maintain relationships and may interfere with intimacy as well. In addition, the leaking of urine during strain can deter some women from exercising, which can have a negative impact on their overall health and can lead to obesity or other health conditions.
A urethral support sling can put an end to troublesome SUI symptoms and provide virtually immediate and permanent relief. The sling is a small hammock-like device made of surgical mesh implanted into the pelvic area through a small, 1 cm vaginal incision. The sling restores support to the weakened anatomy, eliminating leakage to restore continence—and confidence.
The sling implantation procedure is typically rather quick and may be performed as an outpatient procedure using general anesthesia or even under sedation. Patients usually leave the hospital the same day and often return to a normal routine the next day. Most miss only a single day of work or other activities.
Far too often it seems we, as women, tend to focus on taking care of everyone else’s needs before our own. As a result, many put off seeking treatment for their SUI symptoms. If you’ve suffered too long with SUI, it may be surprising to learn that a permanent solution can seem so simple. But in fact, it can be.
In my experience, the urethral sling often puts an immediate end to SUI symptoms, and allows the vast majority of women to fully reclaim their zest for life and once again enjoy the activities they once loved.
Nissrine A. Nakib, MD is an assistant professor of urologic surgery and practicing urologist at the University of Minnesota Department of Urologic Surgery in Minneapolis, Minn. She specializes in the treatment of urinary incontinence, pelvic floor and voiding dysfunction, pelvic pain, organ prolapse and recurrent urinary tract infections. She earned a medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School, completed a urology residency at the University of Minnesota and the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, and completed a female urology fellowship program for incontinence and voiding dysfunction.