Changing the Conversation

Urinary Incontinence

You have narrowly avoided embarrassing situations, stopped going out and passed on once in a lifetime opportunities because of “what if”.   “What if I can’t find a restroom?” “What if I have an accident?” “What if I can’t travel long distances?” Urinary incontinence can impact your mood, ability to move, exercise or walk, sleep, work and relationships with partners and family.  This year resolve to take your urinary incontinence seriously and stop worrying about “what if”. The Women’s Health Institute care team at UT Health Austin can help and let you live the life you love.

How common is urinary incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence is common among women of all ages. Studies show that 25-45% of women suffer from this condition, but researchers found that urinary incontinence is severely under-reported. Approximately 50% of women who visit their OB/GYN with common symptoms like fibroids, bleeding  and pelvic pain fail to mention accompanying incontinence or difficulty urinating.  

Although aging is a contributing factor to urinary incontinence, there are many other factors, such as childbirth, medications, or medical disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis or diabetes, which may cause incontinence in younger women as well. Uchenna Ossai, Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Manager and physical therapist in the Women’s Health Institute states, “Urinary incontinence is not a badge of honor.  Once you have leaked one drop, whether you’re 15 or 50, you should get in to see someone.”

Causes and Types of Urinary Incontinence

According to the American Urogynecologic Society, these three types of Urinary Incontinence are most common among women.

  • Stress Incontinence – when the pelvic floor muscles have become weak and no longer hold urine in your body.  Laughing, sneezing, coughing, or activities such as running and exercise, puts stress on the bladder causing it to leak.
  • Urge Incontinence or overactive bladder – happens when you feel a sudden need to urinate immediately or if you wake several times at night to urinate and/or you cannot make it the bathroom on time.  This condition is common in individuals with diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
  • Mixed incontinence – an incontinence condition where you may have both stress and urge incontinence.

What treatments are available?

You may think that a diagnosis of incontinence means wearing diapers and pads for the rest of your life.  Although, this may be true for some patients, your care team will discuss many treatment options for incontinence with you.  Some women do well with simple lifestyle changes including fluid control, dietary changes, bladder training or retraining and pelvic floor exercises.  There are also medications your provider may prescribe to help control incontinence or a provider may recommend a pessary, a device used to treat incontinence and prolapse. For more complex or chronic incontinence conditions, providers and their patients may discuss surgical options, injections or nerve stimulation. Our approach at the Women’s Health Institute is to create a unique care pathway for every patient (or individual rather than patient) because we know that every person’s incontinence, its causes, and their lifestyles are different. 

About the Women’s Health Institute

At UT Health Austin, every member of the Women’s Health Institute is dedicated to providing the specialized treatment and ongoing support all women need to live healthier lives. The Women’s Health care team is introducing a coordinated, whole-woman approach to your care not just your condition. Depending on your needs, the team may include a gynecologist, urogynecologist, dermatologist, colorectal surgeon, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, medical assistant, pelvic floor physical therapists, dietitian and clinical social worker all integrated to treat your unique situation.  Although you may not need every team member, they are available to step in to provide their expertise and support at any time throughout your care pathway.

The Women’s Health Institute focuses specifically on complex women’s pelvic conditions, such as urinary incontinence, pelvic floor, chronic pelvic pain and vulvar disorders. For more information or to schedule an appointment visit UTHealthAustin.org or call 1-833-UT-CARES.

About UT Health Austin 

UT Health Austin, the group practice designed and managed by the faculty and staff of the Dell Medical School, focuses the expertise of a team of experienced medical professionals to deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality. Our experienced healthcare professionals treat each patient as an individual, with unique circumstances, priorities and beliefs. Working with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room, and beyond.  For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.

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