Making Summer Travel Plans?: Don’t Let Urinary Incontinence Delay You
Aimee Nguyen, MD, Centennial Medical Center, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
More than 25 million American adults experience loss of bladder control, but they often don’t have to. For some seniors, this involuntary release of urine can significantly affect their quality of life. Approximately 30% of people over the age of 60 have this potentially embarrassing problem.
Dr. Aimee Nguyen, a urogynecologist on the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center, specializes in treating women with pelvic floor disorders such as urinary incontinence (involuntary loss of urine) or prolapse (dropped bladder, uterus or rectum). She explains that incontinence is a symptom, not a disease. On a temporary basis, it can be caused by urinary tract infections or certain medications. Persistent urinary incontinence may be caused by weakness of the bladder or the muscles supporting it, an overactive bladder, prolapse or even urinary retention (difficulty emptying your bladder).
There are four common types of urinary incontinence:
incontinence is the leakage of urine that happens during physical
activities, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise.
incontinence occurs when leakage of urine happens after a strong urge to
incontinence involves small amounts of urine leaking from a bladder that
never empties completely.
incontinence affects people with normal bladder control, but who cannot get
to the bathroom quickly due to physical limitations that make moving difficult,
such as arthritis.
Dr. Nguyen said, “Once the cause of urinary incontinence has been identified, treatment options usually fall into three main categories.”
Behavioral techniques require making certain lifestyle changes. “This may include dietary changes or setting up a schedule to go to the bathroom at certain time intervals to retrain the bladder to gradually extend the time between bathroom trips,” Dr. Nguyen said. This can be a good exercise for seniors to try out at home before having to travel for extended periods in a plane or car. Pelvic floor muscle exercises, also called Kegel exercises, are also recommended to strengthen the pelvic muscles below the bladder that help control urination.
Medications can be prescribed to treat an overactive bladder or urge incontinence. These drugs block nerve impulses to the bladder, decreasing the urgency and frequency of urination. “Be sure to talk with your doctor much in advance of a vacation so you can try out a possible medication and see if it works for you before you’ll be traveling,” Dr. Nguyen said.
Medical devices or surgery are also available to treat incontinence. There are now surgical treatment options that take as little as 15 to 30 minutes, which can be done as an outpatient procedure without requiring general anesthesia that could help.
“Urinary incontinence should not be suffered in silence. Hiding incontinence can lead to rashes, skin sores or urinary tract infections.” she said. “There are many options available that will allow you to resume your normal activities, whether that includes socializing, traveling or just enjoying life.”
For more information about symptoms and treatment options, talk with your doctor. Please call 1-800-330-3819 or visit www.centennialmedcenter.com to find a physician near you.