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Health Information Incontinence

Don’t suffer in silence

It’s more common than you may realize. Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — affects more than 12 million Americans. So if a little urine leaks out when you sneeze or you find yourself frequently running for a restroom, you’re definitely not alone.

Incontinence occurs more frequently as we age, with urinary incontinence particularly frequent among women. In fact, incontinence (stool or urinary) is the most common reason that people go to nursing homes. But it can happen at any age, and occurs in both men and women. The good news is that it’s highly treatable — most cases are resolved without surgery.

The first step toward help

Because incontinence is often a symptom of a larger issue, identifying the type of urinary incontinence you have and its frequency are the first steps toward finding its root cause.

Here are some common types of incontinence:

  • Stress incontinence — the most common type; the leakage of urine during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or body movements that put pressure on the bladder.
  • Urge incontinence — the inability to hold urine long enough to reach a bathroom; often found in people who have conditions such as diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, this may be an indication of other conditions that warrant medical attention.
  • Overflow incontinence — leakage that occurs when the bladder becomes so full that it overflows; often happens when normal emptying is prevented by bladder weakness (most often from diabetes or heavy alcohol use) or a blocked urethra. An enlarged prostate can cause blockage, making this more common in men.

Help is here

Unique in the Chicago area, the Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at RUSH University Medical Center brings together specialists to treat the entire abdominal and pelvic region, from endometriosis to irritable bowel syndrome. These include gynecologists, urogynecologists, urologists, colorectal surgeons, gastroenterologists, radiologists, a physical therapist and a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitative care (also called a physiatrist).

Abdominal and pelvic health issues can have a debilitating impact on a person’s daily life — from the constant need to be near a bathroom to discomfort during sexual activity.

That’s why this program focuses on issues beyond the physical by providing education on overall health and access to a psychologist to address the stresses of living with a physical condition that can impact relationships and self-image. Appointments with specialists are typically clustered in one afternoon or morning, with patients’ cases reviewed among the whole team to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Nonsurgical treatment options

In most cases, incontinence responds to nonsurgical solutions. The team’s physical therapist and physiatrist are specialists in using approaches such as biofeedback to test the pelvic floor muscles or electrostimulation to train weak muscles to work properly. And of course there are always Kegel exercises — an effective way for any woman to build strength in the pelvic floor muscles when done correctly.

Feeling good again

After enduring urinary incontinence, constipation and rectal prolapse for 10 years, Susan* met with colorectal surgeon Marc Brand, MD, and urogynecologist Bruce Rosenzweig, MD, both part of the new program, and found out that one surgery — not two — would correct both her rectal and urinary issues.

“Many abdominal and pelvic health problems are correctable,” says Brand, “but few places have the experience or resources to both identify all of the correctable problems and fix them.”

Just three weeks after surgery, Susan had her life back. “Every single complaint I had is gone. No bloating, constipation, soreness, cramping or back aches .... I am absolutely normal. I am grateful beyond belief.”

To schedule an appointment, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).

*Name has been changed

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