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Urinary Incontinence: How You Can Deal With It

Seeta (name changed) was a middle aged fun-loving woman who loved to travel and explore food, people and culture. All through her young life, she had waited to do so. Once, when she was traveling, she had a severe cold and realized, much to her dismay that as she coughed hard, there was a little urine that had leaked out. Assuming it to be a one-off incident, she carried on with her travel, hoping to put the incident behind her.

However, as she continued traveling, she realized that it wasn’t a one time incident at all. In the ten days of her travel, she had peed herself multiple times, leaving her extremely embarrassed and scared too.

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Once back home, it started getting worse. Even being louder than usual triggered a leak. A once fun loving Seeta didn’t take much time to go into a shell. She stopped traveling, stopped going out to meet her friends and was scared to even laugh. She thought of a time when she would have to wear adult diapers and that’s when it hit her. She would have to go to a doctor and take charge of her health.

Urinary Incontinence Explained

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When Seeta shared her condition with her doctor, she suspected urinary incontinence. As the doctor explained the problem to her, Seeta understood that urinary incontinence is of several types.

Stress incontinence, in which a sudden pressure on the bladder like cough, sneeze or even a laugh can cause the bladder to leak out. Generally, this type of incontinence either happens because of age, pregnancy, a surgical procedure or even menopause.

Then there is overflow incontinence, in which the bladder cannot hold urine because of multiple factors like stones, any tumour that puts pressure on the bladder, enlarged prostate gland etc.

Another type of incontinence is the urge incontinence in which the urge to pee is sudden and extreme. This is generally triggered by factors like inflammation of the bladder lining, neurological conditions and an enlarged prostate.

Total incontinence is when the bladder cannot store urine at all. Total incontinence usually happens either because of birth defects, injury to the spinal cord or fistulas.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Even though though the symptoms are self-explanatory most of the times, doctors still like to confirm the diagnosis by asking for tests like:

  • Physical examination to understand the strength of the pelvic muscle. If need be, the doctor might also ask for a detailed pelvic scan.
  • Blood tests and urinalysis to look for infections and performance of the kidneys
  • A test called postvoid residual measurement is carried out to see how much urine is left in the bladder after urination happens
  • Urodynamic testing to understand how much pressure the bladder and sphincter muscle are able to take
  • Tests like cystogram and cystoscopy to look at the bladder and urethra

What Next?

When someone is diagnosed with urinary incontinence, just the way Seeta was, it generally isn’t a life-threatening condition, but still puts a lot of pauses on their lives. Their social life goes for a toss along with their self-esteem too. Therefore, it’s essential that once diagnosed, people should opt to get it treated than assume that it will take care of itself.

So, what are the options, really? Is surgery the only solution?

There are several treatment options available. Depending on the severity of your problem, your doctor may either put you on medicine or suggest exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. If you are at a slightly more advanced stage, then there are medical devices that can come to your rescue. For example, there are urethral inserts for women that they can put in their vagina and take it out when they need to pee.

There are rings that tighten the muscles and should be worn all day inside the vagina. There are methods to burn off some tissue of the bladder using radiofrequency so that when the tissue heals, it becomes tighter and prevents leakage. There are also devices like sacral nerve stimulators that are inserted under the buttocks that help with the incontinence. Doctors also consider using botox or bulking agents to thicken the bladder.

Surgical options include lifting the bladder, adding a mesh beneath the bladder or adding an artificial valve or sphincter.

The crux of the matter is that you shouldn’t avoid visiting the doctor. Whatever the case might be, there are both non-surgical and surgical options to help you

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