Urinary incontinence affects about 25 million Americans, but it is rarely talked about.
“Bladder is a word that people used to not even say; they’d laugh when it came out of their mouths,” says Nancy Muller, PhD, executive director of the National Association for Continence (NAFC). In recent years, people’s responses have improved—slightly. How to wear adult plastic pants?
Instead of waiting 10 years, women now wait about six and a half years to talk to their doctor, Muller says. That’s still a long time to live with symptoms. Here, we set the record straight regarding common assumptions about incontinence.
Although incontinence risk goes up as you age, anyone can experience symptoms at any time. NAFC surveys suggest 1 in 4 women over 18 leak urine involuntarily, and one-third of men and women ages 30 to 70 have lost bladder control at some point as adults.
“My average patient is probably in her mid- to late-40s,” says Tom Margolis, MD, a urogynecologist and pelvic surgeon in the California Bay Area; estrogen loss at menopause weakens pelvic muscles, he says. “But I’ve treated women as young as 20 and as old as 98.”
Urinary incontinence affects 200 million people worldwide, and experts estimate that 25 million adult Americans experience occasional or chronic symptoms. (Of those people, 9 to 13 million have bothersome, severe symptoms, estimates the NAFC.)
Many cases go undiagnosed and untreated, says Muller, not only because of the stigma and embarrassment associated with UI, but also because people don’t know how to talk to their doctor about the problem.
If incontinence comes on gradually, people often don’t think of the leakage as a medical problem. Women tend to associate symptoms with their menstrual period and use feminine hygiene products to control them, says Muller. “They don’t see a doctor until overactive bladder kicks in as well, and they’re rushing to the toilet and sometimes can’t make it in time.”
Dr. Margolis agrees that people often downplay the condition. “It’s OK to want to have control of certain bodily functions that the rest of us take for granted,” he says he tells his patients.
One-third of men and women ages 30 to 70 believe that incontinence is a normal part of aging, according to the NAFC, and a third of women believe that it’s due to childbirth.
That’s far from the truth, says Muller. Aging and childbirth do increase the risk, but they aren’t always related. “I’ve known plenty of women who have had 9-pound babies delivered vaginally and do not end up incontinent, and plenty of people who are 90 years old and have control over their bladder.”
Article source: health.com/health/gallery/0,,20508099_3,00.html
Incontinence is not inevitable with age. It is treatable and often curable at all ages. If you experience incontinence, it may help you to remember that loss of bladder control can be treated.
Urinary incontinence usually starts gradually and slowly becomes worse. As it gets worse, a woman may:
Avoid going out in public because of embarrassment.
Become less active.
Have physical problems caused by frequent urine contact. These problems may include irritation of the groin area and more frequent urinary tract infections.
Treating the cause of incontinence often gets rid of or controls these problems.
Some bladder problems are temporary. For example, you may have a urinary tract infection that causes incontinence, but the problem goes away after the infection is cured.
Article source: webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/womens-guide/urinary-incontinence-in-women-what-happens