Pee problems, part II: Top pelvic floor disorders and how to treat them
If you sometimes leak urine when you sneeze, cough or exercise, if you have trouble reaching the toilet in time or if you feel pressure or heaviness in your pelvis, you may have a pelvic floor disorder.
According the National Institutes of Health, more than one-third of U.S. women have a pelvic floor disorder, and nearly one quarter of women in the United States have one or more pelvic floor disorders that cause symptoms.
“Many women accept pelvic health disorders as a normal part of aging and don’t seek treatment,” says Dr. Brett Vassallo, a urogynecologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “There is no reason to suffer in silence or feel embarrassed speaking to your doctor. Pelvic health disorders are treatable and often curable.”
Here are the most common pelvic floor disorders and how to treat them:
- Urinary incontinence is the loss of urine control with exercising, laughing or coughing, or the inability to hold your urine until you can reach a restroom. Urinary incontinence can occur at any age but becomes more common as women age. Childbirth and weight gain are two common causes of incontinence because these conditions stretch the pelvic floor muscles.
- Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissues in your pelvis weaken. This allows the pelvic organs, which include the uterus, bladder and rectum, to fall into the vagina. Sometimes, one or more of these organs will cause the vagina to bulge beyond the vaginal opening. There is a higher risk for women who had children, especially through vaginal delivery. Risk factors also include menopause, being overweight and smoking. Nearly half of all women between ages 50 and 79 have this condition.
- There are a number of urinary tract disorders, such as overactive bladder symptoms, urinary tract infections and bladder pain, that may need the attention of your doctor.
Treating pelvic health disorders can be done through a wide variety of non-surgical and advanced surgical treatment options.
Non-surgical treatments include:
- Physical therapy. This may include biofeedback, bladder/bowel retraining, pelvic floor and core rehabilitation, manual therapy and individualized exercise programs to rehabilitate the pelvic floor muscles.
- Medications. There are a variety of medications that treat pelvic health disorders. Your doctor will let you know if this is the best treatment plan for you.
- Medical therapy. The most common therapy option is pessary – a small, removable device that is inserted through the vagina to help hold pelvic organs in place. There are other therapy options that may be right for you.
- Lifestyle modifications. Your doctor may recommend that you change some things that can contribute to symptoms. This might include teaching you what to eat and drink or which activities to avoid.
When surgery is necessary, physicians use advanced and minimally-invasive gynecological procedures that will shorten your recovery time, minimize or even eliminate scars and provide the best outcome.
Take the Pelvic Health Assessment to determine if you are experiencing a pelvic health disorder. If you do have symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor or OB/GYN, or schedule an appointment with a specialist, such as a urogynecologist or urologist.
About the Author
Sonja Vojcic, health enews contributor, is a marketing manager at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill. She has several years of international public relations and marketing experience with a Master’s degree in Communications from DePaul University. In her free time, Sonja enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, and keeping up with the latest health news and fashion trends.