By Dr. Gregory Taylor
Is My Bladder Running (Ruining) My Life?
Part A: Women's Urinary Incontinence
Chances are, at one time or another, you have had this thought. Whether it’s an inconvenient, emergent pit stop on the side of the highway, a little leak as you are running to the bathroom, poor sleep quality because of frequent urination at night, or significant leakage requiring pads. A surprising number of adult women suffer from these problems. Urologists are just the sort of people who can help with these problems.
Most female urinary problems include urinary frequency (going to the bathroom often), urgency (needing to hustle to the bathroom), incontinence (leakage), and bladder infections (UTIs). There are several steps you can take to fix these problems on your own without a doctor. These include drinking more water rather than other beverages that irritate the bladder (Table 1) and doing pelvic strengthening exercises (Kegel exercises). Maintenance of optimal body weight helps prevent urinary incontinence.
Dietary bladder irritants:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Spicy foods
- Citrus juices
If you avoid bladder irritants and done Kegel exercises faithfully and you still suffer from bladder problems, then a visit to the urologist will help. You will maximize your visit if you bring a fluid intake diary and a bladder diary to the office. The fluid intake diary is simply a record of type and quantity of fluid intake and the time you drank it during 24 consecutive hours. On a separate paper, record the bladder activity for the same 24 hour period. It is most helpful if you indicate the time of voiding, amount voided, and associated symptoms of urgency or signs of urinary incontinence.
At the urology office, a urine sample will be tested for infection and microscopic blood or other abnormalities. A physical examination will define vaginal, bladder, and urethral health. Specialized diagnostic testing to assess bladder dynamics (CMG) can also be performed in the office. Non-invasive ultrasound may be done to verify proper bladder emptying.
Depending on your particular circumstance, the appropriate course will be jointly discussed. For overactive bladder, options include dietary or fluid modification, timed voiding, and oral medication. If these measures are not successful, then there are other options such as Botox injection into the bladder wall or stimulation of the nerves that control bladder function.
If vaginal health needs improvement, options include vaginal creams, tablets, or rings. Another option is Mona Lisa Touch Laser. This utilizes the same fractionated CO2 technology which has been applied to facial skin. With 3 pain-free treatments lasting only 5 minutes each, vaginal tissue becomes healthier. The laser promotes production of collagen and other cellular products.
In answer to the question “Is it normal for my bladder to run (ruin) my life?,” I tell you it does not have to be! If you suffer from bladder problems, take the measures you can do on your own. If this does not produce the desired result, then obtain a referral to a urologist. Through one or more of the methods described above, we will most likely be able to significantly improve your urinary quality of life.