Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | November 7, 2012

Keeping Quiet About Bladder Control Problems Was Just for Grade School

Do you have bladder control loss, bowel control problems or even pelvic organ prolapse? Those are all pelvic floor disorders, and you don’t have to suffer!

By Dr. Anthony Visco
Duke Urogynecology

One in three women will experience a pelvic floor disorder (PFD) in their lifetime.  During National Bladder Health Week from November 12 through 16, Duke Urogynecology will join providers across the nation to help women “Break Free from PFDs” and to educate and empower them to seek help.

A PFD occurs when women have weakened pelvic muscles or tears in the connective tissue in the lowest part of the pelvis, which may cause some of the following issues:

Bladder Control Problems: Bladder control loss, or the inability to hold urine long enough to reach the restroom (urge incontinence) and frequent urination during the day and night (urge frequency ).  These urge-related bladder problems are defined as overactive bladder.  Urine leakage caused by increased abdominal pressure that can occur with coughing and laughing (stress incontinence).

Bowel Control Problems: Loss of normal control of the bowels that leads to leakage of solid or liquid stool or gas.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Dropping of the bladder, uterus and rectum caused by the loss of normal support of the vagina. In severe cases, women may feel bulging tissue protruding through the opening of the vagina.

There are many different ways to manage each of these problems, and they should not be considered a normal part of growing older nor should women suffer in silence as there are many treatment options available. With the help of a urogynecologist, these conditions can be successfully treated with non-surgical and surgical options depending on the type of PFD being treated.

Non-surgical Treatment Options:

  • Lifestyle changes such as performing pelvic floor muscle exercises, like Kegels, or losing weight, can help control and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. In fact, overweight or obese women who lose weight have shown to decrease weekly incontinence episodes by more than half.
  • Dietary changes like drinking fewer alcoholic beverages and avoiding caffeine can help control urinary and bowel incontinence.
  • Other treatment options include using medication or a pessary (a device designed to lift the bladder), physical therapy, electrical nerve stimulation to stimulate the nerves that control bladder or bowel functions, and biofeedback to improve sensation and muscle strength in the pelvic floor.

Surgical Treatment Options:

Pelvic surgeries can help restore the normal pelvic floor anatomy or repair damaged muscles or tissue.

  • Many procedures to correct pelvic organ prolapse can be performed through small incisions in the vagina or abdomen (laparoscopic or robotic-assisted techniques), which may reduce scarring and complications and may shorten recovery time.
  • You should discuss with your physician the best treatment option for you. Your physician can review treatment options, adverse events, potential complications and post-operative care.

I hope you can join me and my colleagues for a community program about pelvic floor disorders on Wednesday, November 14 at the North Raleigh Hilton at 6:30 p.m.  To learn more or to register for this free program, visit the program online or call 1-888-ASK-DUKE (275-3853).

To learn more about Duke Urogynecology, visit or call 1-888-ASK-DUKE (275-3853).

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