For millions of women, urinary incontinence (UI) is a frustrating and embarrassing condition. As many as 1 in 3 women over the age of 45 suffer with the condition every day. For some, the problem is so severe they are afraid to even leave the house. Thankfully, new treatment options are now available, bringing much-needed relief for this common condition and helping women of all ages regain their comfort, confidence and quality of life.
The key to successful treatment of UI is determining the type you have, as the treatment therapies used are quite different. There are many types of UI, but most cases fall into one of three types: urge incontinence, overflow incontinence and stress incontinence.
Urge UI is caused by uncontrollable spasms of the bladder, causing an overwhelming urge to use the bathroom—you simply just can't hold it. Overflow incontinence results when, for a variety of reasons, you may be unable to fully empty the bladder. Stress UI is a condition where any type of strain—a cough, a sneeze, laughing, lifting—causes urine to leak. And, it's not uncommon for a woman to have a combination of both urge and stress incontinence.
Stress UI, the most common type of urinary incontinence, stems from a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles that provide support to the urethra. This can be exacerbated by events such as childbirth or simply as a result of aging. Genetics also play a large role; if you have a family history of stress UI, you may be predisposed to the condition. 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.
A urethral support sling can restore this support and provide virtually immediate and permanent relief from SUI. The sling itself is a small hammock-like device made of surgical mesh, which is implanted into the pelvic area under the urethra through a small, approximately 1 centimeter vaginal incision. The sling restores the weakened anatomy back to its natural position, therefore restoring continence. Sling procedures can be relatively quick and may be performed as an outpatient procedure using general anesthesia or even under sedation. Patients may leave the hospital the same day and are usually back to a normal routine the next day, usually missing only a single day of work or other activities.
In my experience, the urethral sling often puts an immediate end to stress UI symptoms, and in the majority of cases is covered by insurance. In addition to the dramatic improvement in quality of life, insurance coverage makes the sling procedure a much more economical solution than dealing with disposable pads.
While many people view UI as simply a fact of life and a natural part of aging, the truth is there are options that can put an end to these embarrassing and troubling conditions. Don't let UI prevent you from getting out there and enjoying life. Make an appointment to talk to your doctor or a qualified female urologist today.
About the Author
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.