Open Accessibility Menu

Many Women Stay Silent about Common Urinary Condition-But Help Is Available

If you have trouble with uncontrolled urination – whether it’s a few drops or larger amounts – you are not alone. Although both men and women can have urinary incontinence, it is more common in women, especially as they age. Statistics show millions of American women experience some level of difficulty with uncontrolled urination or overactive bladder.

“By the time women are in their 70s, as many as 70 percent to 80 percent have some degree of urinary incontinence,” reported Alison Slack, MD, board certified obstetrician and gynecologist with Washington Township Medical Foundation (WTMF). “It is incredibly common.”

You can learn more about this common and often troublesome condition – who is at risk and what are the symptoms and treatments – at a free community seminar led by Dr. Slack and Mark Saleh, MD, board certified urologist also with WTMF. The forum will be held on Tuesday, March 15, at 6 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, MD, Auditorium in the Washington West Building next to Washington Hospital in Fremont. For more information or to reserve your spot, go online to and click on “Events,” or call 800.963.7070.

Many women suffer in silence about their urinary incontinence issues. Fear of urinary leakage and embarrassment can cause them to stop doing many of the activities they enjoy. They may worry about hygiene issues or odor. Some women get in the habit of bringing a change of clothes wherever they go. Or, they may stop going on long car or plane trips.

“Some women have trouble with leakage of urine when they exercise or run, while for others it is more pervasive so they can’t hold their urine at all,” added Dr. Slack. “In treating women for urinary incontinence, we want to improve their quality of life.”

Problem with muscles or nerves

Urine is made up of water and wastes removed by your kidneys and stored in the bladder, a balloon-like organ. Urine leaves your body through a tube called the urethra. Incontinence can occur when there is a problem with the muscles or nerves that hold the urine in the bladder or release it into the urethra.

There are two main types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and overactive bladder. Stress incontinence is usually signaled by small spurts of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or jump. These types of activities can increase pressure on the urinary tract.

Overactive bladder involves muscle spasms that prevent the bladder from filling normally. You may feel you need to use the bathroom more often or have a strong urge to urinate and are unable to make it to the bathroom in time. When you urinate, you may be unable to empty your bladder completely. Some people have a combination of both conditions.

There are other, less common neuromuscular causes of urinary incontinence, which interfere with the signals normally transmitted from the brain and spinal cord to the bladder and urethra. These conditions include multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury.

Many Risk Factors

“A broad spectrum of conditions can put a woman at risk for incontinence,” Dr. Slack explained. “Having a baby, especially with a vaginal birth, is a common one. But, any tissue or organ that sags or puts pressure on the pelvic floor can contribute to incontinence, especially as age and gravity take their toll.”

Obesity can be a contributing factor. Some women have trouble with incontinence after menopause, which may be related to hormonal changes. Respiratory difficulties like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, allergies or any condition that results in frequent coughing or sneezing – even the flu – can also contribute to incontinence.

Dr. Slack emphasized that women should not to be embarrassed to discuss their symptoms of urinary incontinence with their physician. In nearly every case of stress incontinence or overactive bladder, there is treatment available.

Different Treatments

“Stress incontinence and overactive bladder are treated differently,” pointed out Dr. Slack.

With stress incontinence, the goal is to improve support for the bladder. Treatment may include exercise, pessaries that support the bladder, or surgery. At the seminar, Dr. Saleh will discuss the surgical options available to women with stress incontinence.

Overactive bladder can be treated with medication. In addition, Dr. Slack and other physicians perform a type of acupuncture called tibial nerve stimulation, which stimulates the nerves going into the bladder.

Learn more

For more information about these and other treatment options, come to the seminar on March 15. To learn more about Washington Township Medical Foundation, go to To learn about Washington Hospital, visit