Get Your Life Back – Solutions for Stress Incontinence
Solutions for Stress Incontinence
It’s estimated that over a third of Australian women will suffer from stress incontinence at some point in their life. Yet, around half of them won’t fully explore their options for treatment, in part due to feelings of embarrassment and anxiousness.
However, over the past few years, treatment options have expanded in Australia and now there is a range of options that women can explore.
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
Essential for women of all ages, Kegel exercises help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles help to support the bladder, womb and bowels, and they can weaken over time due to weight gain, childbirth, chronic constipation, aging or (some types) of excessive exercise.
A 2015 study found that Kegel exercises were an effective and safe means to treat stress incontinence in the short term. To perform the Kegel exercises, start with identifying your pelvic floor muscles by stopping your urine mid flow. Contract and hold the muscles for five seconds and then relax for five seconds. Do this exercise in sets of ten at least three times a day.
Find out more at https://jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/bladder-bowel/pelvic-floor-strength .
Some simple lifestyle changes may ease the burden of stress incontinence. Obesity can be risk factor, so an expert-led, weight-loss management program is a recommended as a first step for some women.
Another science-backed recommendation is a series of dietary changes that include reducing alcohol, smoking, soft drink and caffeine consumption, in conjunction with healthy food choices and light to moderate exercise. These changes can reduce the risk of constipation and improve bladder function.
Recently, laser treatment has gained a reputation for its success in treating stress incontinence. The MonaLisa Touch is a painless, non-surgical procedure, using a fractional laser system to stimulate the body’s rejuvenation system. The laser repairs and enhances the quality of the vaginal walls and increases blood flow to the vagina. This tones the tissue around the urethra and optimises the effectiveness of pelvic floor muscle exercises.
These improvements give greater control over stress incontinence and many women see an improvement after just one treatment. The MonaLisa Touch is also effective in treating dryness, itchiness and tightness in the vagina, and in alleviating pain during sex.
There are several medications that can be prescribed for stress incontinence, with varying degrees of success. These medications are rarely prescribed in Australia although are used in other jurisdictions. They work by improving the contraction of muscles around the bladder neck and the urethra, which in turn improves the seal that keeps urine from leaking. In general, these medications are designed to be taken on a long-term basis and, when medication is ceased, the stress incontinence can immediately return. In addition, side effects such as dry mouth and constipation can prevent many women using these treatments.
Other options include vaginal ring pessaries, urine seals, suction caps and urethral inserts. These need to be fitted by a health care professional and may need to be changed regularly by the user.
In more severe cases, surgery may be an option to help reduce the effects of stress incontinence. Surgical options include a repairing of the bladder neck and pelvic floor, and/or using a mesh or tape to support the urethra. While this can be an effective way to manage stress incontinence, it is important to note that it is invasive surgery, and, as such, carries a higher risk of complications than other management options.
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