Hot flashes, weight gain, and mood swings aren’t fun! As women, we know that physical and emotional changes can be expected as the body begins to enter menopause. One side effect of menopause that often goes unmentioned is urinary incontinence. If you’re approaching your middle years, here’s what you need to know about how menopause may affect your bladder.
What Is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence (UI) is caused by a weakening of the bladder muscles, which occurs naturally with age and is intensified when hormonal changes take effect during menstruation. As estrogen levels drop, the pelvic floor muscles weaken, which impacts bladder function and increases pressure on the urethra. Urinary incontinence can cause abnormal and embarrassing bathroom runs for many women.
Several types of UI are experienced by menopausal women. The following are common types:
- Stress Incontinence- Characterized by involuntary bladder leakage, often when lifting, sneezing or laughing.
- Urge Incontinence- A sudden urge to urinate.
- Overflow Incontinence- Urinating frequently at night and experiencing a weak urine stream.
- Overactive Bladder- The frequent and often sudden urge to urinate.
How Is Incontinence Treated?
In some women who have UI, lifestyle changes can reduce or eliminate symptoms. These changes can include losing weight, cutting out or reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, and strengthening the pelvic muscles with exercises through InTone physical therapy treatments, that with training at the office can be completed at your home. InTone is a very effective, convenient, and affordable (most insurances offer fewer or lowered copays).
Other treatment options include the Votiva device and Mona Lisa Touch laser, non-invasive treatments offered by Dr. Vanderloos. Both treatments are performed in the office, working to correct estrogen levels in the vagina (similar to vaginal estrogen cream but is more convenient than the traditional treatment method). This in-office incontinence treatment has no downtime, and requires no at-home work. Your doctor can also prescribe medications to calm overactive bladders.
For stress incontinence, a vaginal insert called a pessary can help prevent leakage by supporting the bladder. The Mona Lisa Touch laser will also treat the estrogen environment and the bladder issues whether urgency or stress incontinence.
Many women have success with these bladder retraining and laser therapy treatments, which involves extending the time between trips to the bathroom gradually.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If you’re not sure whether your urinary patterns are normal and are bothered by the urge or frequency of urination, seek medical attention if:
- You often have to urinate during the night.
- You urinate more than eight times a day.
- You experience leakage of urine.
- Incontinence or overactive bladder affects your daily activities.
- You have pain or discomfort when you urinate.
Although some women feel too self-conscious to discuss incontinence with a medical care provider, this is a common occurrence that can be relieved with the right treatment and physical therapy. In the Shreveport area, trust the care of Dr. Catherine Vanderloos, who has been serving patients for more than 25 years. Our practice offers a physical therapy program for urinary incontinence that combines visual biofeedback with muscle stimulation. Call (318) 865-4333 to make your appointment today.