Incontinence: Understanding and Treating Your Leaky Bladder

Of the topics people don’t want to discuss, urinary incontinence must rank near the top.

Going to the bathroom all the time is not only annoying, but also embarrassing. The good news is that there are treatments out there for this common condition that afflicts millions. So, if you leak when you laugh, read on.

“The biggest thing patients don’t know is that there are treatments for incontinence,” said Dr. Arthur Mourtzinos, a urologist at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, who sees hundreds of patients every year for this exact reason.

The first thing to know is the type of incontinence – generally speaking, there are two of them – that’s affecting your bladder.

Urge incontinence is one type related to an overactive bladder, and both men and women have it. As the name suggests, it’s a constant urge to urinate or losing a small amount of urine when least expected, explained Mourtzinos.

Conditions such as an enlarged prostate and diabetes are both risk factors for overactive bladder. Still, other medical conditions can cause it – it’s even a side effect of certain medications.

“A lot of people think it’s a condition for the elderly,” Mourtzinos said. “That’s not true. In some cases it can come on before childbirth.”

The second type of incontinence is stress-related and unfortunately, ladies, this is largely due to child birth. In men, it typically occurs after therapy for prostate cancer.

The good news is that there are treatments for both types – ranging from medication to surgery.

Mourtzinos pointed out there is medication available to stop the bladder spasms signaling to the brain you need to urinate. This works best for overactive bladder, which is largely a communication issue with the signals between the bladder and the brain.

For stress-related incontinence, medications can work in some instances, but there are some direct treatments involving surgery such as a sling procedure, in which a sling is placed around the urethea to lift it in place. Surgical therapies using Botox or sacral nerve stimulation can relax the bladder and help with urge incontinence. The Botox remedy can last anywhere from three to 12 months.

Each treatment is dependent on the individual case, and as with many medical situations, there’s no one-size fits all Band-Aid approach. Yet however extreme your condition may be – or even if it’s just a slight inconvenience – Mourtzinos urged those people not to wait to see a doctor.

“Patients are embarrassed; they sort of deal with it and then it starts to affect other areas of their lives,” he said. “The biggest message for me is don’t wait to get treatment.”

For more information on urinary incontinence, speak with your Lahey Health physician.

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*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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