Incontinence & Pelvic Floor Disorders
Urinary stress incontinence, or loss of bladder control, is a frustrating problem for more than 13 million Americans—85% of which are women. The severity of urinary incontinence can range from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to a bathroom in time. Never knowing when and where you might have an accident can impact everything from work to exercise to your social calendar.
Because it is so common, some women believe it is normal and do not tell their doctors. At the same time, many doctors do not ask women if they are having bladder control problems. As a result, many women with these problems do not get treated and suffer in silence. It does not have to be this way – all women can be treated and almost all bladder problems can be improved.
No one is sure exactly how to prevent urinary stress incontinence. Many of the risk factors are difficult or impossible to change (such as the genetic component, or the presence of other diseases which can lead to pelvic floor problems). However, there are certain things that can reduce the likelihood or severity of incontinence.
1. The bladder likes water! You should not reduce the amount of liquids that you drink in the hope that you will urinate less often. By reducing your liquid intake, the smaller amount of urine will become more concentrated, causing irritation of the bladder lining. Highly concentrated urine causes increased frequency of urination and can lead to growth of bacteria, causing infection.
2. Water is the best beverage to drink to promote a healthy bladder. You should gradually increase your water intake to six to eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day. You can drink water with other beverages to reduce their concentration and decrease their adverse affect on the bladder.
3. Some foods cause urine to smell bad (especially asparagus). Infection also causes urine to smell bad. If your urine smells bad and you don’t think it is from anything you ate, then consult with your physician right away to rule out an infection.
4. Several foods and beverages are thought to irritate the bladder and contribute to leakage. Try cutting down or eliminating these foods and drinks from your diet and see if you have improved bladder control when you do.
- Alcoholic beverages
- Any drink with caffeine
- Artificial sweetener
- Beer, wine
- Carbonated beverages
- Citrus juices (orange juice) and fruits
- Corn syrup
- Coffee and tea (even if decaffeinated)
- Highly spiced foods
- Medicines with caffeine
- Milk and milk products
- Tomato based products
Cranberry and cherry juice may help to decrease urine odor. Cranberry juice is acidic and my actually irritate the bladder.
5. Constipation may contribute to bladder problems. When the rectum is full of stool, it may disturb the bladder and cause the sensation of frequency and urgency. If you must bear down in order to pass your stool, this can cause weakening of the pelvic floor, which may contribute to bladder leakage. Consult with your physician if you have regular constipation. Increasing your fiber intake may help to relieve this problem.
6. Cigarette smoking is irritating to the bladder surface. Coughing puts pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and may contribute to weakness and thus bladder leakage.
7. Women should consider avoiding wearing nylon underpants and pantyhose next to their body. Cotton underwear is non-irritating. Women should also avoid perfumed or colored toilet tissue and sanitary napkins because the dyes and perfumes may irritate the skin, and the bladder.
8. Some medicine, even when taken for other health conditions, may cause urine to smell bad or turn an unusual color. Others may irritate your bladder. Consult your pharmacist to find out if this is the case.
The good news is that 80 to 90% of women who seek help for urinary incontinence will experience significant improvement. A wide array of treatment options, ranging from behavioral and diet changes to surgical options including robotic surgery, exist and are being used every day to help women recover parts of their lives they may have let go. Several of the doctors on staff at Silver Cross Hospital have special training in treating incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders. And, through the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Silver Cross offers pelvic floor rehabilitation, which includes physical therapy techniques, stretches, strengthening exercises and a range of other approaches available depending on your need.
Doctors may suggest surgery to improve bladder control if other treatments have failed. Surgery helps only urinary stress urinary incontinence and it has proven to be very effective. The best surgical procedures improve or cure the incontinence associated with coughing laughing sneezing and exercise in about 85% of women.
Ask your physician if surgery is right for you or contact a doctor who specializes in surgery to treat urinary stress incontinence:
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital offers free screenings for women six weeks to one-year post-childbirth.