Awareness regarding urinary incontinence and other conditions that affect bladder health is often understated, and some patients are afraid to broach the subject with their physician. The team of fellowship trained Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery specialists with University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians) discuss symptoms and treatment options for women affected by urinary incontinence.

“We are here to help people improve quality of life with these issues that may be embarrassing but are so common that someone shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help."

Cynthia Fok, MD, an M Physicians urologist.

Although there are different types of urinary leakage, one of the more common types is urinary urgency incontinence. This loss of bladder control can be associated with sudden uncontrollable urge to urinate and the inability to get to the bathroom in time. 

Luckily, there are many different treatment options available, both surgical and nonsurgical. One treatment option is behavioral modifications, such as limiting soda and coffee intake. Patients may also try pelvic floor physical therapy or muscle retraining, as well as biofeedback, a non-drug treatment in which patients learn to control bodily processes that are normally involuntary. 

“This is not to say that the problem is in the patient’s head, but they can use their minds to help alter these conditions,” said Dr. Nissrine Nakib, an M Physicians urologist. “There are a lot of treatment options that are not as invasive as they used to be.” Patients can also seek medication as a way to help alter the condition.

Further treatment options include Peripheral tibial nerve stimulation, a simple, weekly treatment involving an acupuncture-like needle placed in the ankle area. There are also implantable devices and even botox injection into the bladder.

Another type of common urinary incontinence, known as stress incontinence, can occur when coughing, sneezing or lifting objects. Stress incontinence is related to the sphincter muscle, and pelvic floor therapy can be a very helpful treatment in addition to healthy behaviors, weight loss and kegel exercises. As women age and these muscles begin to deteriorate, surgery may become another treatment option. 

“We can help women get back to their everyday lives, such as sitting through a movie, running, etc.,” says John Fischer, MD, an M Physicians urogynecologist and head of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health. “To all women impacted by urinary incontinence, please come and see us so we can help improve your quality of life.”