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Why do some women become incontinent?


Jennifer Klauschie, MD, is a fellowship-trained urogynecologist on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. She can be reached at 623-547-2600.

Question: What are some common reasons why individuals become incontinent, and what can be done to treat the problem?

Answer: Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control that results in an involuntary leakage of urine. Both men and women are affected, but incontinence occurs more frequently in women. Even though incontinence can be an embarrassing condition, it is quite common. One myth is that incontinence is simply a part of aging.

Incontinence can be temporary or persistent, depending on the underlying cause.

Temporary incontinence may occur in response to certain foods, drinks and/or medications. Alcohol, caffeine, overhydrating, foods high in sugar, spice and acid, and certain medications can affect bladder control. In addition, certain medical conditions, such as urinary-tract infections and constipation, may also cause incontinence until they are resolved.

Persistent urinary incontinence can be caused by a variety of physical changes or conditions, including pregnancy and childbirth, aging, hysterectomy, bladder cancer, enlarged prostate and prostate cancer, certain neurological conditions and obstructions within the urinary tract.

Strategies for treatment range from non-invasive therapies to surgery, depending on the cause, severity, circumstances and the individual.

Incontinence of a temporary nature often can be treated by modifying fluid intake and dietary habits, adjusting medications as appropriate and/or clearing up any underlying infections. Persistent incontinence may require one or more long-term therapies, which can include behavioral changes, pelvic-floor strengthening, physical therapy, certain medications, medical devices, interventional therapies and, if necessary, surgery.

Although incontinence is not life-threatening, it is life-altering. Urinary incontinence may affect an individual's self-image, sexual health, daily activities and overall quality of life. There's no need to suffer in silence or embarrassment. Many effective options are available to improve or alleviate the problem.

If you experience symptoms of incontinence, contact your health-care provider. An initial evaluation may be performed by your primary care physician, but specialty care is also available. By performing a thorough examination, your health-care provider can help determine the root cause and recommend the best treatment option or solution based on your needs and circumstances.

Page Last Modified: 10/06/2011
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