If your bladder leaks when you laugh—or cough, or sneeze—rest assured, you’re not alone.
Urinary leakage is all too common, especially among women, but it’s no way to live life.
There is no official data on the number of women who experience bladder leakage, and that’s because they often don’t treat it. It can be embarrassing, or simply assumed that this comes with aging.
“Urine leakage that’s caused by the sudden increase in abdominal pressure, like exercise, coughing or sneezing is called ‘stress urinary incontinence,’” said Dr. Arthur Mourtzinos, a urology specialist at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center. “Normally, urine only leaves the body when you are purposefully emptying the bladder.”
Childbirth, medication or an injury to the urethra (the duct through which urine travels to leave your body) usually causes your bladder muscles to weaken, and this can lead to stress incontinence.
November is Bladder Health Month, a time to recognize this often overlooked, while ever so important, organ.
Bladder problems can be embarrassing to talk about but there are a few treatments for stress incontinence.
Yet discussion about bladder problems is exactly what we need, Dr. Mourtzinos explained.
“By far, the biggest barrier to this problem is an embarrassment and the feeling that there’s nothing that can be done,” Dr. Mourtzinos said. “I think the most important message I can give to patients is that you are not alone.”
According to the Urology Care Foundation, up to a third of men and women experience urinary incontinence, though you might not know it because people are too ashamed to discuss it, even with their doctor.
“There are always newer medications and newer, innovative, minimally invasive techniques that really can be done in the office and don’t require patients to take any significant time off of work and offer really simple solutions for these conditions,” he said.
Dr. Mourtzinos said women can’t necessarily prevent incontinence, but they can do several things to strengthen their bladder muscles, including pelvic floor strengthening exercises (think Kegel exercises) and maintaining a healthy weight since excess weight puts more pressure on the pelvic floor.
But most importantly, he said it’s critical to get treatment as soon as you need it. Speak with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a specialist. Incontinence can lead to quality of life issues, so it’s important to talk to someone about what you’re experiencing and be an advocate for your own health.
“You are not alone, and life is too short,” Dr. Mourtzinos said. “So seek the appropriate care.”
For more information on bladder health, speak with your health care provider.