For About and By Caregivers

Urinary Incontinence Treatments for Women

By Jennifer B. Buckley

For some people, urinary incontinence can be an embarrassing and emotional disorder that can eventually lead to social isolation or depression. There are over 11 million Americans living with incontinence and women comprise 85% of that statistic. Women living with incontinence often find themselves scouting out the nearest restroom for fear of having an accident in public or avoiding social engagements because they feel anxiety about odor or appearance problems, even with a protective under garment. If a woman is diagnosed with urinary incontinence, it doesn’t necessarily mean that her overall health is failing or she is just aging. In fact, the disorder is not limited to older women and through proper treatment; incontinence in women can be controllable and sometimes reversible.

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder control symptomatic of an underlying problem, but it’s not a disease. It may be caused due to structural damage to a woman’s lower urinary tract, (bladder or urethra) from pregnancy or a urinary tract infection, or nerve damage to her central nervous system. There are three types of urinary incontinence; stress, genuine stress and urge incontinence, and a woman could have one, two or all three types.

Stress incontinence occurs when women leak urine resulting from coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or intercourse. This form of incontinence effects about half of the women living with incontinence and it may prevent women form engaging in their normal physical activities because they are fearful of increased problems during exercise.

Genuine stress incontinence is the leaking of urine during increased abdominal pressure even without bladder contractions. It is the most prevalent form of urinary incontinence among women. The second most common form is detrusor instability, or urge incontinence.

Urge incontinence is associated with a heightened urgency and frequency of urination. Most of the women diagnosed with this form of urinary incontinence, feel the urge to urinate but rarely make it into the restroom in time. Women with this type of incontinence appear to have involuntary or uncontrollable bladder contractions, even in the absence of damage to their lower pelvic nerve. There are non-surgical and surgical treatment options for all three forms of urinary incontinence.
Before you or your care recipient decided to isolate themselves due to the devastating emotional effects of incontinence, take into account, “Incontinence can be cured or controlled 80% of the time,” according to the Center for Aging. The most important step is finding the right treatment and in recent years, a variety of new treatment options for women have been developed to treat urinary incontinence such as: biofeedback, FemSoft Insert, Neocontrol, tension-free transvaginal tape(TVT) and Ditropan. 

Biofeedback or electromyography, is used to collect information about the tone or condition of muscles located in the pelvic floor through the use of sensors attached to a monitor. These muscles help control urination and can be strengthened through kegal exercises, which involves contracting the pelvic floor muscles for a few seconds and repeating the exercise several times a day. Biofeedback is a non-chemical and non-surgical treatment option for urinary incontinence as well as FemSoft inserts.

“The FemSoft insert is a single-use disposable product designed to prevent leakage of urine in women suffering from stress urinary incontinence,” according to Rochester Medical Corporation. The insert is a soft sleeve filled with a thin fluid that is inserted into a woman’s urethral tract. It conforms to the woman’s natural shape and prevents leakage of urine, even during increased physical activity. The FemSoft inserts are an extremely new edition to treatment options, as well as, NeoControl.

A device known as the NeoControl, is one of the latest therapies to treat urinary incontinence for women. This treatment includes, fitting an office chair with magnets in its seat in order to create a pulsing magnetic field, which strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. The Food and Drug Administration approved it for treatment of all forms of incontinence in women. In a study of 83 women, NeoControl has successfully reduced incidences of urinary leakage in women with stress incontinence from 3.3 to 1.7 daily according to researchers at Emory University. Another effective procedure is tension-free transvaginal tape (TVT). 

Tension-free transvaginal tape is a surgical procedure that requires a surgeon to insert a synthetic tape between a woman’s abdominal and vaginal wall. In less than six weeks, tissue will have grown around the tape to hold it in place to support the neck of the bladder. There is a possibility with this procedure that the tape will be expelled from the body due to rejection from infection or tissue perforation. Some women prefer not to have surgery to correct their urinary incontinence and take medications like, Ditropan instead.

Ditropan, developed by ALZA Corporation, is the first once a day medication for the treatment of urge incontinence. The FDA approved it in late December 1998 to provide an effective therapy for urgency and frequency symptoms of overactive bladder. Ditropan provides a consistent level of medication throughout the day, a technology not found in other medications used to treat incontinence. Side effects of Ditropan include: dry mouth, constipation and drowsiness. Clinical trials showed only a seven percent drop out rate of Ditropan users resulting from adverse effects. Ditropan, along with the other treatments, offer women an escape from the shame involved with the inability to control their bladder. 

Only a small quantity of women dealing with urinary incontinence ever discuss their condition with their doctor and with the growing number of viable treatment options it’s unfortunate. These procedures can help women live without the worry of an accident to feel more comfortable and improve their overall quality of life.



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