Around half of patients suffering from this haven’t told their doctor
Much of proper medical treatment comes down to having an open dialogue between a physician and patient, but many people suffering from bladder or fecal incontinence haven’t discussed it with their doctor.
These two common and treatable issues affect tens of millions of Americans — 1 in 6 have some type of bladder incontinence and 1 in 12 suffer from fecal incontinence, which means they cannot control their bladder or bowel movements.
But many don’t tell their physicians, says Dr. Joaquin Estrada, a colorectal surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center and Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.
“Many people living with these conditions are either embarrassed to say something or think it’s something they have to live with,” Dr. Estrada says. “But there are a wide range of therapies for people that can dramatically improve their quality of life and self-esteem.”
Most evaluations can be done at a primary care physician’s office or outpatient center before a referral to a specialist like himself, he says.
There are three common types, says Dr. Estrada, and knowing the differences and signs and symptoms can help empower patients to speak up when they experience any of all of them.
- Stress incontinence: Signs and symptoms include leaking when you sneeze, cough, or laugh; leaking when you exercise, bend, or lift; leaking when you climb stairs or stand up; frequent urination.
- Urinary retention: Signs and symptoms include having a hard time telling if your bladder is full; being unable to feel “empty”; a weak or dribbling stream
- Overactive bladder: Signs and symptoms include going before you reach the bathroom; frequent leaks; using pads or protective garments; frequent, uncontrollable urges to go; the feeling your bladder is never empty.
While 20 million adults in the U.S. struggle with fecal incontinence, 54% haven’t discussed it with their doctor, says Dr. Estrada.
First, he says, it is important to know what is and isn’t normal for your body and most people.
“If people are experiencing these symptoms, their body is trying to tell them something,” he says.
Individuals should reach out to a physician if they:
- Have frequent bowel accidents
- Are planning activities around access to a bathroom
- Have to monitor what and how much they eat
- Use pads or protective garments
Treatment plans can range from individual to individual, says Dr. Estrada, and can include physical therapy, short-term medications, dietary modification and minimally invasive and surgical options.
“The first step for patients is to have a relationship with a primary care provider they trust and tell them honestly about what they’re experiencing. We are there to help and hear, not make you feel uncomfortable,” he says. “From there, we can put you on the path toward feeling better.”
About the Author
Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.