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Stress Incontinence: What You Need to Know About It

Updated on November 27, 2015

Stress incontinence typically occurs when certain movements or activities trigger urinary leakage in women. Specialists might recommend surgery for worse case scenarios and one of the main concerns is stress incontinence surgery recovery time. In this case, an early prevention or treatment is definitely better than prolonging the agony before consulting a specialist. It should be pointed out that while men might also experience incontinence, women are more likely to have this disorder

What Causes Stress Incontinence?

This disorder is part of a weak pelvic floor problem. The pelvic floor is the support system of the urethra, uterus, bladder and rectum. When the tissues and muscles that make up this support system weakens, problems arise. Stress incontinence happens when the sphincter muscle of the urethra, in particular, becomes weak and does not perform its function well. The sphincter muscle is supposed to be tight and only releases when the woman urinates. When a woman with a weak sphincter muscle on her urethra coughs, sneezes or is surprised to the extent that she gives a start, chances are she will experience some leakage. The cough, sneeze or jot is the pressure or the "stress" that involuntarily releases some urine from the bladder without the help of the sphincter.

There are several reasons why the pelvic floor, particularly the sphincter muscle of the urethra, becomes weak. Pregnancy and childbirth can stretch the tissues and the muscles in and around the pelvis, causing them to weaken. Frequent urinary tract infections can also contribute to this disorder as well as any surgery that concerns the pelvis. Advanced age has also been cited as another probable cause for the weakening of the pelvic floor, in particular the sphincter muscle of the urethra. Obesity may also have the same effect.

Whether the leakage is copious or not, the woman is usually aware of it and she will feel uncomfortable or conscious about it. Not only this, but visible evidence of the leakage can be mortally embarrassing for her. There are measures that can be taken to lower the risk of embarrassment by addressing the symptom of the disorder but these measures are not guarantees. Experts in the field have their recommendations to actually treat the disorder.

What are Your Options?

There are several options open to women who suffer from a weak sphincter, these include, but are not limited to:

- lifestyle changes

- physical therapy

- surgery

- medication

In lifestyle changes, there are several adjustments that can help the patient reduce the occurrence of incontinence. If the patient is a smoker, she may have to think about giving up smoking. Studies and research on smoking has shown that it can weaken muscles and tissues in certain areas of the body. Nicotine can also irritate the bladder contributing to the problem. Aside from these, a lot of smokers have a chronic cough that can cause leakage. Another lifestyle change that can help to reduce occurrence of stress incontinence is to minimize the activities that jostle or jolt the body severely such as jogging, jumping and running.

Physical therapy is an option that actively combats the weakness of the pelvic floor by doing Kegel exercises. This exercise helps to strengthen the tissues and muscles in and around the pelvis. While a lot of women can do the exercises on their own, others may have some difficulty identifying which muscles to tighten during the exercise. If this is the case, she may be a good candidate for biofeedback therapy or electrical stimulation. In biofeedback therapy, stimulus is applied to the muscles and tissues to help the woman feel contractions in specific parts of the pelvic floor. Electrical stimulation therapy sends a small electrical current to the muscles of the pelvic floor. The current stimulates the muscles to contract, much like the Kegels exercises. Once the woman can identify which muscles she needs to tighten she will not need the outside stimulation anymore. Sometimes, the stimulation may need to be regularly applied if the patient cannot perform the exercises on her own.

The idea of surgery often sends people into a panic but the procedures reserved for stress incontinence are quite simple. Surgery is usually recommended for individuals that suffer from severe stress incontinence that it affects their daily lives and has caused them severe embarrassment. Common surgical procedures usually include:

- sling procedure

- colposuspension

- injections

A urethral sling procedure entails adding a sort of hammock or "sling" which lends support specifically to the urethra and the bladder. There are two kinds of sling procedures; the mid-urethral sling and the traditional sling procedures.

The colposuspension procedure returns part of the urethra to its original place, thus lending the bladder a tightened neck. Stress incontinence surgery recovery time for this kind of procedure is relatively quick, just a few days to be up and about and a few weeks to go back to daily routine.

An injection of synthetic materials can also be made to tighten the sphincter around the urethra to reduce the occurrence of stress incontinence. Although effective in reducing the occurrence of leakage as well as the amount of leakage, injections do not necessarily cure incontinence. Stress incontinence surgery recovery time for injections is quick since the procedure itself takes less than 30 minutes under a local anesthetic. Most patients may need a few more sessions to achieve the desired results of incontinence reduction.

These are just a few helpful facts and information for those who suffer from stress incontinence. A consultation with a certified and qualified medical doctor is necessary before any form of therapy or surgery may be recommended to treat the disorder.


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