Helping Women with Incontinence

Older women runningIncontinence is the inability to control bladder and bowel functions. The expert pelvic floor medicine and reconstructive surgeons at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital offer a variety of treatment options for these sensitive conditions.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine) affects 1 in 3 women. The types of incontinence are:

  • Stress incontinence (activity-related incontinence) which is associated with coughing, laughing, sneezing and physical activities, for example, running and jumping
  • Urgency incontinence, which is leakage of urine associated with uncontrollable urge and not having enough time to make it to bathroom
  • Mixed incontinence, which is a combination of both stress incontinence and urgency incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence, which is due to a blockage of the urethra
  • Neurogenic incontinence, which is due to disturbed function of the nervous system

Some women may have more than one type of incontinence. Each type of incontinence may have different causes and treatment.

Types of Incontinence

Treatment for Urinary Incontinence

Treatment for urinary incontinence may include behavioral techniques, devices, medications or surgery, depending on the type and severity of the incontinence. Some of these treatments include:

  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises (with or without a physical therapist)
  • Dietary and lifestyle changes (avoiding bladder irritants such as coffee and smoking, and weight loss)
  • Bladder control techniques
  • Medications
  • Incontinence pessaries (devices that compress the urethra closed so that leakage does not occur)
  • Procedures
    • Bladder (midurethral) sling for stress urinary incontinence
    • Urethral bulking for stress urinary incontinence
    • Bladder Botox injections for urgency incontinence
    • Bladder nerve modulation for urgency incontinence

Fecal Incontinence

Inability to control the bowels is known as fecal incontinence. Fecal incontinence can range from occasional leakage of stool to complete loss of bowel control. The Pelvic Floor Disorders Center offers special diagnostic testing to help determine the cause of your incontinence.

Treatment for Fecal Incontinence

Restoring control of the bowel through dietary changes, medications and special exercises are some of the recommended forms of treatment for fecal incontinence.

Your physician may recommend anti-diarrheal drugs, laxatives or stool softeners. For some individuals, surgery may be helpful in restoring continence.

For More Information

For more information about pelvic floor disorders and incontinence, including definitions of terms, causes, symptoms, diagnoses and treatments, visit our Educational Resources page.