If you're one of the many women who experience bladder control problems, don't let embarrassment keep you from getting the help you need. Leaking urine, having to urinate frequently and experiencing other symptoms of urinary incontinence aren't trivial consequences of childbirth or a natural part of aging.
Not all health care providers routinely ask about urinary function during an exam. It's up to you to take the first step. If you have bladder control problems, tell your health care provider about them and ask for help.
Bladder control problems require medical attention for several reasons. Reduced bladder control may:
Sometimes having a bladder control problem means you may have a serious underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
A few isolated incidents of urinary incontinence don't necessarily require medical attention. And most people, as they age, have to get up to urinate at night. But if the problem affects your quality of life, consider having your symptoms evaluated.
Make an appointment with your primary care provider if:
Most of the time, symptoms can be improved.
Many health care providers can evaluate bladder control problems without referring you to a specialist. In spite of better understanding and treatment of urinary incontinence, some providers may consider it an inevitable consequence of childbearing, menopause or aging. Others may lack the time, training or experience that make them likely to consider you for evaluation or treatment.
If your health care provider dismisses symptoms that have an impact on your quality of life, or if the treatments he or she prescribes fail, ask for referral to a specialist. Doctors who specialize in urinary disorders include:
Before your visit, ask your health provider's office for a bladder diary and how to use it so that you can track information for several days in a row.
A bladder diary is a detailed, day-to-day record of your symptoms and other information related to your urinary habits. It can help determine the causes of bladder control problems and the most effective treatments.
To figure out how much urine you pass, you can use any collection device that allows you to measure ounces or milliliters.
Your visit will be more productive if you provide a good medical history. Make a list of:
Medications can be associated with bladder control problems, so list everything — prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, minerals, herbs and other supplements. If you're not sure whether something counts as a medication, put it on the list.
As a first step, your health care provider may recommend lifestyle changes to "train" your bladder, such as performing pelvic-strengthening exercises (Kegel exercises) and following a schedule for when you drink fluids and use the bathroom.
For some women, medications help. For others, surgery provides effect treatment. But, both medications and surgery have side effects you'll want to discuss with your doctor before deciding on these treatment options. What's best for you depends on the type and severity of your bladder control problem.
Your bladder control problems may significantly improve after treatment. Any improvement, however, counts as a success, as long as it helps you to do what you like and enhances your quality of life.