It’s time we talked about a subject that most of us want to avoid like the plague. Let’s face it, whether we want to admit it or not, bladder problems are a fact of life for millions of people – both men and women. And sadly, embarrassment about discussing them with our doctors is one of the biggest stumbling blocks standing in the way of our getting the help we need. As with many health concerns, the more we know about the basics of bladder health, the more we can do to lessen our risk of developing bladder problems at some point of our lives.
Maintenance Tips The Urology Care Foundation, the official foundation of the American Urological Association offers some proactive steps we can take toward maintaining good bladder health.
Drink plenty of water
Use good bathroom habits
Stay away from foods that bother the bladder
Look after your pelvic floor muscles
Talk to your doctor
While both men and women are at risk of developing bladder problems, there are a number of differences in how they are affected – in the rate of incidence, the age of development and some of the underlying causes. Well-Being spoke with Robert Harris, M.D., Urogynecologist, at Southeast UROGYN, with clinics in Jackson, Meridian and Ruleville, about bladder health issues most often experienced by women.
According to Dr. Harris, overactive bladder (OAB), Stress Incontinence, UTIs and Interstitial cystitis are some of the most common bladder problems in women.
“With OAB abnormal urges occur and make you feel like you need to go very often,” notes Harris. “This is really somewhat of a neurologic condition so we use medications, Botox, or nerve stimulation to treat it; all of these treatments have an effect on how the nerves talk to the muscle in the bladder wall. Stress Incontinence is leaking with coughs or exercise and this is caused by an anatomic defect. Sling surgery can be performed in only a few minutes on an outpatient basis with almost no recovery time or missed work and outcomes are excellent. Teens usually deal with UTIs or a painful bladder condition called Interstitial Cystitis.”
According to Harris, young women often don’t recognize the symptoms of a UTI and may put off getting treatment. Burning with urination, along with more urgency to void and going more frequently are the most common symptoms. UTIs can be treated by phone based on symptoms, and recommended dosing is only 3 days of antibiotics. If these symptoms do not resolve or reoccur more than three times a year, a woman should see a specialist.
Harris offered some specific ways women may help prevent bladder problems with some common sense actions.
“Emptying your bladder on a schedule, say every 1-3 hours (called ‘bladder retraining’) depending on how often you currently void, can help all types of incontinence,” continues Harris. “Doing pelvic muscle exercises (Kegels) can also help but the most important time to squeeze those muscles is before a cough or sneeze because those events create the most pressure in the pelvis. With a quick muscle squeeze just before (we call this ‘The Knack’), you can protect your pelvic structures from harm.”
Harris encourages women not to be embarrassed to inquire about any bladder issues they are experiencing. They are very common and there are a multitude of ways to treat them, from something as simple as lifestyle changes, to minimally invasive surgery.
Robert Harris, M.D. Urogynecologist, received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and served his Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. His fellowship in Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery was completed at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Harris is double board-certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in OBGYN and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.