Medically Reviewed by Gary H. Emerson, MD
Embarrassment for personal incontinence is understandable and can cause you to put off seeing a doctor. First, remember – you are not alone. One source says women wait an average of more than 6 years before finally seeking help for their incontinence. On the average only 10% of women who experience urinary incontinence will seek professional medical help.
“This is sad, because there are many treatment options available,” says McLeod Gynecologist Gary Emerson, MD. “We’re trained to deal with your problem professionally. Bladder control problems are a common issue. Fifty percent of women will experience urinary incontinence during their lifetime. Those numbers increase as women age with one in three by age 60 experiencing some type of bladder control problem. Urinary incontinence is not a disease of old age as women as young as 20 experience bladder control and leakage problems.”
Once you’ve made an appointment, the right preparation BEFORE you see the doctor will help speed your diagnosis and treatment. Here’s a short list of 5 “homework” assignments:
Starting keeping track of your problem at least a week before the appointment. What are your symptoms? When and how often to you have the urge to urinate? If you leak, how much is it? How many times at night do you wake up to go to the bathroom?
Make notes about when you first noticed incontinence. Did it get worse over time – or just recently? How has your quality of life suffered – are you hesitant to accept social invitations, are you constantly seeking out restrooms when you are out in public, are you forced to carry extra clothes or absorbent undergarments?
Make a list of ALL prescription and over-the counter medicines you are taking. Certain drugs can increase your tendency to leak – including sleeping pills, narcotic painkillers, antidepressants, hormone therapy, blood pressure medication, and diuretics (drugs designed to remove excess water from your system).
Make a list of the foods and beverages you consume. What you do daily can impact your incontinence. Smoking and drinking beverages with alcohol or caffeine can help trigger incontinence. Some foods, such as citrus juices or beverages with artificial sweeteners can make bladder leakage worse.
Be ready to describe your work and recreation. Some types of heavy lifting or strenuous exercise can stretch or weaken the muscles in the pelvic region, leading to incontinence.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
When visiting with the doctor, listen carefully. Take notes. Even take a friend. Sometimes, we don’t hear or understand everything the doctor is explaining. An extra set of ears can’t hurt. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Women should take control of a leaky bladder and not let it control them.
Sources: National Institutes of Health, American Urogynecologic Society, U.S Department of Health & Hyman Services Office on Women’s Health, Bladder & Bowel Foundation