55 per cent of middle aged women suffer from urinary incontinence, it increases up to the age of 50 years and then decreases slightly. Only 20 per cent Indian women seek medical advice. Urinary incontinence is involuntary leakage of urine resulting from bladder's inability to control the same. This can range from an occasional leakage of urine to a complete inability to hold any urine. The most common type of incontinence is Urge Incontinence; patients suffering from this disorder have a sudden need to urinate and aren't able to hold their urine long enough to get to the toilet in time.
In case of Stress Incontinence, urine leaks as pressure mounts on the bladder, for example, during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting heavy objects. The other type of incontinence is Overflow Incontinence; dribbling due to bladder being always full and Functional Incontinence; usually in older people due to arthritis or other disorders making movability slower. While it may happen to anyone, close to 55 per cent of middle aged women suffer from incontinence, making women more vulnerable to this disease. In a systematic review of data presented in the recently concluded International Continence Society (ICS) annual meeting the prevalence increases in middle aged women up to 50 years and then decreases slightly. Urinary incontinence impacts quality of life significantly.
In many cases the confidence of women is hampered. Socializing becomes a dreaded task. But only a fraction seeks medical help. "I don't think there's any question that Urinary Incontinence disorders are underreported. Some women are embarrassed and some think they're a normal part of aging. Either way, it's not something women will often report spontaneously," says Dr RK Shimpi, Head of the Urology Department, Ruby Hall Clinic.
According to ICS Annual Meeting despite a high prevalence of urinary incontinence, its impact on a person's quality of life and the fact that it is often treatable, there is increasing evidence that many people do not seek medical help for their condition. The percentage of women seeking help ranged from 11 per cent in countries like Sweden, Hong Kong and the Netherlands to 50 per cent in countries like Norway and the United States. Even in India, a mere fifth (20 per cent) of affected women had sought medical help, even though as many as 70 per cent women reported that incontinence significantly affected their daily routine as well as social activities like shopping and visiting friends. The common reasons quoted for not seeking treatment for more than half of them was to consider urinary incontinence as a 'normal' part of women's lives, while the others either 'did not take it seriously' or were 'too shy'.
"Today, there are very effective treatments for Urinary Incontinence than ever before. These treatments not only rectify the 'disease' but they also bring back the confidence. The nature of treatment depends on the type of bladder control, the seriousness of the disease and the lifestyle of my patients," says Dr. Shimpi. Doctors may suggest a simple and invaluable exercise called 'Bladder Training' that helps in better control of the bladder. There are also drugs, injections, special devices and even surgery to treat incontinence. Though loss of bladder control becomes more likely as one ages, there's plenty you can do to lessen the likelihood of being affected, or at least to decrease the condition's impact on your quality of life. If this problem is happening to you, don't shy away from consulting your doctor.