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How to Start the Conversation on Bladder Leaks

Bladder leaks know no age... talk to your doctor about Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy (or speak directly with a Women's Health Specialist at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City).Do you leak urine when you cough, laugh, or sneeze? Do you leak when you exercise? Do you ever have to rush to the bathroom? If so, you’re not alone. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy or a Women’s Health Physical Therapist can cure your bladder incontinence, but you have to let your OB/GYN or primary care doctor know that you are having urine leaks, even if just a small amount.

Bladder leaks are uncomfortable, embarrassing, and just plain annoying to deal with. But they can be fixed and the treatment is relatively straight forward when you speak with a pelvic floor physical therapist or seek women’s health physical therapy. The trouble is that even though approximately 50% of women and nearly 20% of men will suffer from bladder leaks in their lifetime, most will not seek treatment for urinary incontinence (UI).

When should you see your doctor about bladder leaks?

Bladder leaks, while common, are never normal. You shouldn't wait to talk to your doctor if you are having any signs of bladder leaks; however minor they might be right now, they are not likely to be fixed on their own. Last year, a group of women’s health providers, the Women’s Preventative Services Initiative (WPSI), released a report on the importance of annual incontinence screening. The screen should occur with your OB/GYN or primary care doctor through the use of a validated assessment instrument examining whether there are symptoms of UI, the type and degree of the incontinence, and the impact on your health, function, and quality of life.  Annual screening is important; 51% of women suffer from urge, stress, or mixed UI, but 55% of those women won’t self-report the symptoms to their physician because of embarrassment, stigma, or accepting their condition as normal. UI is also associated with urinary tract infection (UTI), skin ulceration, and fractures occurring at night from falls or while rushing during an episode of urge UI.

It was determined that screening alone was sufficient for improving symptoms, quality of life, or function, but by screening for these symptoms, providers could make early recommendations for treatment, which will only enhance treatment outcomes and reduce the social and economic challenges associated with bladder leaks. Intervention falls into three categories pharmacological, surgical, and non-pharmacological/non-surgical behavioral intervention (e.g., Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy). All  interventions were effective, but physical therapy-based interventions have no associated harms. Early intervention should be considered for reducing symptom progression, improving immediate and long-term quality of life, and limiting the need for more costly intervention; early intervention starts with early screening.

Bladder Leak Self-Screen

While your doctor can provide you a validated screening tool, they may not be, especially if you are not telling them there might be a problem. So, I want to share my own personal screening tool that should help you identify some problems that are worth talking to your doctor about:

  1. Do you leak urine, even a small amount, or just occasionally?
    • I want you to know that leaks are never normal, even after pregnancy. If you are still leaking with coughing, laughing or sneezing 6 weeks after having your baby, it’s time to take action.
  2. Do you ever go to the bathroom “just in case?”
    • Going “just in case” is a sign you could have a healthier pelvic floor.
  3. Do you ever have to rush to the bathroom?
  4. Do you go to the bathroom more than 8 times per day?
    • You shouldn’t need to plan your day around finding a bathroom. If you know every potential bathroom from your house to your work, there is a medication free option.
  5. Do you have to wear pads when you leave the house?
    • I might be able to save you $900 a year. That’s the average amount spent on incontinence products annually.
  6. Do you wake up more than one time per night to urinate?
    • Even as we age, waking up more than once per night is not normal. And it could be putting you at risk for a fall.
  7. Do you feel like you are not able to fully empty your bladder?
  8. Do you have frequent urinary tract infections?

If you answered yes to any of these questions talk to your doctor about pelvic floor physical therapy, or reach out to us here at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City. We understand the challenges bladder leaks pose, and we can help you solve them.

-Dr. Lauren Peterson, Clinical Director

FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers of Oklahoma City