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Urinary Incontinence: Many Treatments Available

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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Loss of bladder control is a common and troubling problem that can be treated. It's not just part of getting older or a normal part of having children.

Doctor Mulvihill explains how the most important step is to simply speak up.

Barbara, who is 48 and an avid runner, suffered from urinary incontinence. "I ran seven days a week, so I was leaking seven days a week," she says.

"I waited a long time to talk to my doctor about the leakage problem, probably three or four years."

And Barbara's not alone.

Millions of women who have this embarrassing yet treatable condition suffer in silence.

Doctor Peggy Norton, of the University of Utah and President of the American Urogynecologic Society, says, "Unfortunately, we spend about $1.4 billion, not million, billion, a year on pads for incontinence."

She says patients are often reluctant to talk about incontinence, but it can have a big impact on quality of life and there's almost always a better option than wearing a pad.

"First of all, they may just want to learn how to control their pelvic floor muscles better, so that if they're about to cough or sneeze, they squeeze those muscles and that helps stop the leakage at the moment they cough or sneeze," Dr. Norton explains.

Some prefer to use a device that's worn like a diaphragm inside the vagina. It acts like a backstop, putting pressure on the urethra to prevent leakage.

"If you only leak when you go to your exercise class, or when you play tennis three times a week, you just slip this little device in and you're not leaking during those time periods," she says.

Incontinence can also be improved with biofeedback, medications, and surgery.

"Most of these surgeries are about 85 percent effective, so patients should always consider some non-surgical options. But for those who have tried those and failed, havaing surgery means getting a lot of parts of their life back."

Surgery was the answer for Barbara, who is now running marathons without a problem.

Urinary incontinence is a common and bothersome problem in men and women alike. The key to getting proper treatment is making the right diagnosis, and that depends on open communication.

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