Many women suffer from bladder issues, and sadly, they often do so in silence.
Discomfort and embarrassment aside, bladder issues can have a huge impact on your overall health and well-being, not to mention your day-to-day life. Hence, it is important to seek medical help rather than ignore these uncomfortable problems. Here are some of the most common bladder issues that women face:
Overactive bladder: Many women (and men) suffer from overactive bladder. Symptoms include an excessive need to urinate (more than eight times in 24 hours) — even during the night (waking up two or more times to urinate). There are many causes behind an overactive bladder, including a heavy use of caffeine and/or alcohol, tumors, bladder stones, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and certain medications. This is why it is so important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing an overactive bladder — it’s more than just going to the bathroom a lot, it’s your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Many people assume that an overactive bladder is a natural part of aging (and older people do seem to be at a higher risk for the condition), but it still requires assessment and treatment. Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to ease your suffering with your overactive bladder.
Bladder leakage: It can happen during sex, during laughter, or just about anytime! Also known as urinary incontinence, bladder leakage affects more than 30 million American women. The most common type is stress urinary incontinence (SUI), a sudden, involuntary loss of urine that often happens when a person is laughing, sneezing, coughing, having intercourse, or exercising. According to the American Foundation for Urologic Disease (AFUD), one-third of women with SUI avoid sexual intimacy because of fear of leakage during intercourse or orgasm.
It helps to know the causes of this condition and how to address them:
What causes SUI? Pregnancy, vaginal delivery in particular, can create bladder-control problems because of the significant lengthening and stretching of the muscles of the pelvic floor. Menopause can also contribute to the weakening of the pelvic floor and may affect the health of the tissue in the urethra. Other risk factors include pelvic surgeries, smoking, obesity, certain medications, chronic disease, and caffeine.
How symptoms can be alleviated: Many steps can be taken to alleviate the symptoms of SUI. First, it's crucial to limit the intake of caffeine. In addition, women with SUI should undergo a pelvic-floor evaluation and do rehabilitative exercises — which you can be taught by a good gynecological physical therapist who can help you isolate and strengthen the muscles that are key to maintaining bladder control and sexual function. While pelvic-floor exercises can't completely repair damage to the uterus once it has occurred, they can certainly help with bladder control and help prevent symptoms from getting worse. If surgery is needed (as is often the case when organ damage occurs), physical therapy can assist in postsurgery recovery. Finally, there are an array of prescription medications your doctor can prescribe to help alleviate the symptoms.
The foundation of a healthy bladder is a healthy lifestyle: Drink plenty of water, eat nutritious foods, and limit your intake of alcohol. You should also keep up with your annual checkups with your primary-care physician and your ob/gyn. Remember, healthy living is the best way to safeguard your health…and your bladder.