Approximately 80% of those affected by urinary incontinence can be cured or improved. Diagnosis includes a medical history and a thorough physical examination. Tests such as X-rays, cystoscopic examinations, blood chemistries, urine analysis, and special tests to determine bladder capacity, sphincter condition, urethral pressure, and the amount of urine left in the bladder after voiding may be required.
Because incontinence is a symptom and not a disease, the method of treatment depends on diagnostic results. Sometimes simple changes in diet or the elimination of medications such as diuretics can cure incontinence. More frequently, treatment involves a combination of medicine, behavioral modification, pelvic muscle re-education, collection devices, and absorbent products. Despite the high success rates in treating incontinence, only one out of every twelve people affected seeks help. Many types of treatment are available for incontinent people. After considering your specific case, a qualified specialist can recommend the treatment that is appropriate for you.
The three major categories of treatment are: behavioral, pharmacological, and surgical.
Behavioral techniques sometimes include the following:
Scheduled Toileting - The care giver prompts the incontinent patient to go to the bathroom every 2-4 hours. This puts the patient on a regular voiding schedule. The goal is simply to keep the patient dry and is a frequently recommended therapy for frail elderly, bedridden or Alzheimer's patients.
Bladder Retraining - Bladder retraining involves scheduled toileting but the length of time between bathroom trips is gradually increased. This therapy trains the bladder to delay voiding for larger time intervals and has been proven effective in treating urge and mixed incontinence.
Pelvic Muscle Rehabilitation - This technique involves pelvic muscle exercises (PME). PME may be used alone or in conjunction with biofeedback therapy, vaginal weight training, pelvic floor stimulation, and magnetic therapy. Kegel exercises help firm up the vaginal canal and control urine flow (for incontinence problems). Read more about Kegel Exercises.
Pharmacologic therapy (medications or drugs) is another common treatment for incontinence. Physicians can prescribe medications to help control incontinence, and sometimes they will take a person off a drug that is causing or contributing to incontinence. Of course, only your healthcare professional should tell you to stop using a drug he/she has prescribed.
Surgical treatment should be performed only after receiving a thorough diagnosis from a healthcare professional. All appropriate nonsurgical treatments should be tried before deciding on surgery. There are many different surgical procedures that may be used to treat incontinence. The type of operation recommended depends on the type and cause of your incontinence. Some of the more common procedures performed to treat urinary incontinence include, bladder neck suspension or sling procedures, periurethral bulking injections (collagen injections around the urethra), or implantation of an artificial urinary sphincter or sacral nerve stimulator. Your healthcare professional will thoroughly discuss any procedure you might need.
For those people whose incontinence cannot be cured or for those who are awaiting treatment, there are other devices or products to help manage incontinence. These include catheters, pelvic organ support devices, urethal inserts (plugs), external collection systems, penile compression devices, and absorbent products.
Additional information about incontinence: What Is Urinary Incontinence?
Incontinence topic on the message boards.