What is Stress incontinence?  Dr. Mark Allen, a Plano, Texas urologist, offers insight on this common, yet troublesome form of urinary incontinence.

Bladder problems can lead to urinary incontinence which is the uncontrollable leakage of urine. This condition can lead to emotional stress and it may cause otherwise outgoing people to stay at home for fear of leaking in public.  Urinary incontinence is such a common issue that it affects 12-13 million Americans each year. There are many different types of urinary incontinence and with each varying type, there are different factors that may cause it. In this article we will be specifically discussing “stress” incontinence.

What is stress incontinence? This is the urinary incontinence that occurs when stress is placed on the bladder by activities such as sneezing, laughing, coughing or aggressive physical activity. According to Dr. Mark Allen, a Plano, Texas Urologist, “While the sneezing, laughing and other motions of the body are what lead to the leakage, the causes are more big picture things such as giving childbirth, excessive weight, and previous vaginal surgeries. These functions of the body place stress on the bladder leading to stress incontinence which is the direct result of the weakening of urinary sphincter.”

While bladder problems and the cause of urinary incontinence can lead to varying forms of urine leakage, most all types of incontinence are treatable. Urinary treatment for incontinence is dependent upon the severity and the type of incontinence. If the incontinence is mild (a very small amount of leakage), the recommended treatment will most likely be some form of physical therapy to strengthen the urinary sphincter. A few other recommendations for mild urinary incontinence are:

  • A decreased intake of fluids that cause frequent urination
  • Scheduled bathroom trips
  • Pelvic floor exercises
  • Kegel exercises

Urinary Incontinence Treatment Options

For moderate urinary incontinence (saturated undergarments), wearing protective undergarments might be needed and one might also need to take medications to help control the leakage. These medications signal the nerves in the bladder which cause urination.

For severe urinary incontinence (when leaks cause the need to change outwear), bladder surgery may be needed. According to Dr. Allen, many patients are not aware that there are varying forms of incontinence and many ask what is stress incontinence when they are diagnosed with it. The good news is that there are several surgeries now available to help individuals cope with the symptoms of incontinence. Urinary treatment for incontinence in the form of surgery is performed to specifically repair the urinary sphincter and prevent further incontinence.

Other urinary incontinence treatments are available as well, including

Neuromodulation

  • For urge incontinence not responding to behavioral treatments or drugs, stimulation of nerves to the bladder leaving the spine can be effective in some patients.
  • A stimulator device, InterStim, is surgically implanted.

Retropubic Suspension

  • This urinary treatment for incontinence uses surgical threads to support the bladder neck by securing the threads to strong ligaments within the pelvis to support the urethral sphincter.

Sling Procedure

  • This procedure uses a strip of our own tissue to cradle the bladder neck. Sling serves as support for the urethra during increased abdominal pressure.

Midurethral Sling

  • The midurethral sling uses synthetic mesh materials that a surgeon places midway along the urethra to provide the right amount of support for urethra.

Another option may be “urethral bulking agents,” during this procedure you physician will inject a solution similar to collagen inside of the urethra. This solution will decrease the size of the urethra and help to prevent urine for leaking during events that usually cause leakage (sneezing, coughing, laughing, physical activity). Success rates are as high as 70% and the procedure is suggested to last up to 12 months. This procedure is ideal for those who are not responding to physical therapy but wish to avoid surgical treatment. The surgery is anesthesia free and can be performed in the clinic in about 5 minutes.

It has been reported that most of the sling procedures have the highest success rate among urinary incontinence treatments. Most women with bladder problems who undergo one of the sling procedures do not have any further leakage after healing from the surgery.

Urinary incontinence, while very common among the adult population, does not have to rule one’s life. Incontinence sufferers can live a life free of the fear and anxiety that accompanies uncontrolled and unwanted urinary leakage. If you are suffering from bladder problems that are leading to incontinence, no matter the severity, discuss the symptoms with your urologist and choose the right treatment for your situation.

Sources: Dr. Mark Allen, Urologist in Plano, Texas participated in this article.