According to the statistics, urinary incontinence is a problem that affects 25% of women. However, doctors stress that this number can actually be higher, since many ladies do not speak openly about it. Have you had problems with it? There’s nothing to be ashamed of – just consult a doctor. This condition can be treated in numerous ways. One of the latest treatment methods, for example, applies… Botox.
Urinary incontinence is a taboo for a number of people. It’s not only bothersome, but it can also affect your quality of life. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be condemned to limiting your social life and physical activity, or to using the panty liners advertised on TV. This disease can be effectively treated. But to make that possible we need to know what causes it first.
After exercise or without warning
Specialists differentiate between two types of urinary incontinence: stress and urge. ‘In the first case, a lack of control over urinating is caused by weakened urethra sphincters and pelvic fundus muscles. In such situations, a slight increase in the pressure in the abdominal cavity is enough to cause an uncontrolled urine leak, for example due to even a little physical exercise or simple activities such as coughing, sneezing, and laughing,’ explains Piotr Dzigowski, MD, PhD. Overactive bladder syndrome and urinary incontinence due to urgency is caused by urinary bladder contractions independent of our will. A person suffering from this feels the need to go to the toilet immediately without warning. This can often happen to people dealing with urinary tract infections, diabetes, or hormonal disorders. It can also be caused by some medication, some neurological diseases, and some types of trauma.
Urinary incontinence is usually associated with mature women – it usually affects women in the perimenopause period and after it. ‘However, it’s worth remembering that there are numerous factors that can lead to the occurrence of these problems, including pregnancy and childbirth, operations on the pelvis, and some neurologic diseases, as well as obesity and constipation,’ says Ewa Kurowska, MD, PhD, a gynaecologist from the Medicover Hospital. Urinary incontinence is also a problem for some men, although it occurs much more rarely in males.
Find the reason
A lot of people think urinary incontinence is a disease that is a ‘life sentence’, yet it can be effectively cured today. ‘At the beginning of the treatment process, we determine the causes of the disease,’ says urologist Piotr Dzigowski, MD, PhD. ‘During a visit your doctor will ask you to provide a history of your voiding and continence, i.e. the passage and holding of urine, by providing you with some questionnaires. A urinalysis and urine culture are often performed too. Depending on the medical indications, an ultrasound of the urinary tract or a dynamic examination are also performed,’ he adds.
The next steps depend on the results of these tests. Most of all, a change in lifestyle is very important. You will need to develop new, health-oriented habits, including emptying your bladder shortly after you feel the urge to do so, limiting the intake of diuretic substances and those that weaken the operation of the sphincters, i.e. alcohol, nicotine, soft drinks, and drinks containing caffeine. Patients should also remember to avoid drinking liquids less than two hours before going to sleep and to maintain an appropriate weight. In some women the situation can be improved by doing Kegel muscle exercises, which help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Thanks to the progress in medical science, today we have access to numerous non-invasive treatment methods.
Treatment does not have to be invasive
We can deal with the problem of stress-induced urinary incontinence thanks to, for example, Urolastic. ‘This material, which has the consistency of silicone, is injected into the region around the urethra, improving its closing mechanism and increasing the patient’s bladder control. The procedure usually lasts about 10–15 minutes,’ says gynaecologist Ewa Kurowska, MD, PhD. Urolastic is a permanent and non-absorbable material, which makes it work for a long time.
Even Botox, which is primarily associated with wrinkle removal, can help treat urinary incontinence. ‘This is one of the latest treatment methods for people suffering from overactive bladder syndrome and urinary incontinence caused by urgency,’ says Piotr Dzigowski, MD, PhD. Until recently, they had to rely on pharmaceuticals that reduce urinary bladder contractility. However, they were not effective for every patient and they could cause unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and constipation. ‘Today we can prevent frequent urinary bladder contractions by injecting Botox into the bladder. This can eliminate the problem even as much as 6–9 months with no bothersome side effects,’ adds Piotr Dzigowski, MD, PhD.
In the course of the treatment, patients can also undergo therapy to exercise the bladder and pelvic floor muscles using electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). ‘It is performed by using a special intravaginal electrode. During the electrical stimulation, we stimulate the muscles to contract with the use of artificial impulses, that is, external electric impulses. This forces them to work more intensively than they would responding to physiological impulses coming from the brain,’ says Piotr Dzigowski, MD, PhD, a urologist from the Medicover Hospital. ‘The brain cannot distinguish between the two types of signals, which allows us to trigger the contraction or relaxation of an appropriate group of muscles and monitor the progress of the treatment with an on-screen visualisation, or so-called biofeedback. Evident strengthening of the muscles can occur after just two or three weeks of treatment.’
Urinary incontinence is an embarrassing complaint that complicates everyday life. It is estimated that less than half of women who suffer from it visit a doctor. Yet modern medicine provides us with numerous treatments, enabling us to eliminate this problem and restore freedom and comfort to our lives.