CINCINNATI—Do you leak when you cough, sneeze or laugh?
It’s the first question urogynecologist Mary South, MD, asks patients in order to determine if they experience stress urinary incontinence.
“It’s easy to diagnose and easy to treat,” South says of what can be an embarrassing condition experienced by millions of Americans, more prevalent after childbirth and in older women. Stress urinary incontinence, however, differs from regular incontinence in that loss of urine happens during an episode of exertion such as sneezing, coughing, laughing or exercising.
Stress incontinence falls under the heading of pelvic floor disorders, according to the American Urogynecologic Society (AUGS) and often goes unchecked due to the embarrassment factor. In fact, according to the society, 80 to 90 percent of women who seek help will experience significant improvement.
There is also an outdated element of fear associated with treatment, says South.
In the past, she says, the problem was usually treated with relatively invasive procedures such as a pubovaginal sling or a Burch procedure, which requires an abdominal incision.
“We now have minimally invasive slings which only require a 30-minute procedure to place, and most patients are back to work very quickly,” says South. “No overnight hospitalizations are required. Many patients notice an improvement in symptoms immediately.”
South encourages those who answer the “cough, sneeze or laugh” question with a “yes” to call and make an appointment to be evaluated as a candidate for the latest sling procedure.
“Here, we evaluate women first by history and then a physical exam,” she says. “We then usually proceed with bladder testing to determine the extent of the problem and if the patient has any other type of urinary incontinence other than stress urinary incontinence.”