Weill Cornell Medicine Urology
Weill Cornell Medicine Urology
Urinary Incontinence - Treatment Options

Urinary Incontinence - Treatment Options

Both non-surgical and surgical treatment options are available for urinary incontinence, depending on which form of incontinence the patient is diagnosed with. Just as in vaginal prolapse, patients are given the choice of non-surgical and surgical options depending on the severity of their condition and their personal wishes. With today's minimally invasive surgeries and excellent results, many more women are choosing to proceed with surgery; these procedures typically involve a one-week period for recovery and 6 weeks of restricted activity.

Non-surgical treatments:

Kegel exercises:

Kegel exercises are used to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. These exercises can help control stress urinary incontinence, urge urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and fecal incontinence. In addition, they may be used to help slow the progression of vaginal prolapse. Kegel exercises must be done correctly and regularly in order to work.

Pelvic floor therapy:

Pelvic floor therapy consists of visits to a physical therapist with specialized training in pelvic floor disorders. These specialized physical therapists utilize a combination of various techniques, listed below, depending on the type of urogynecological condition they are treating.

Behavioral modification:

Behavioral modification consists of education on diet, fluid intake, and other lifestyle changes to manage various bothersome symptoms.

Bladder training:

Bladder training consists of learning to use the pelvic floor muscles to suppress overactive bladder symptoms, including urinary urgency, frequency, nocturia, and urge urinary incontinence.

Biofeedback:

Biofeedback uses an intravaginal device to train pelvic floor muscles to contract and relax properly.

Functional electrical stimulation:

Functional electrical stimulation utilizes a device that can be used intravaginally or externally, delivering a gentle electrical current to activate or relax the nerves and muscles in the pelvis.

Manual therapy:

Manual therapy uses pressure applied to and released from muscles in spasm, in order to relax them and increase blood flow to the area for healing.

Joint and tissue mobilization:

This therapy involves gentle manipulation to help calm the muscles and nerves of the pelvis.

Low-dose vaginal estrogen:

Low-dose vaginal estrogen replaces declining estrogen in vaginal and urethral tissues, easing symptoms of vaginal dryness, itching, and irritation as well urinary urgency, frequency, and incontinence. Low-dose vaginal estrogen comes in a variety of preparations including a cream, suppository, or intravaginal ring.

Vaginal pessary:

A vaginal pessary is a removable, diaphragm-like device worn within the vagina to support the bladder or other organs that are prolapsing through the vagina. A vaginal pessary may also be used to decrease stress urinary incontinence. Pessaries come in a variety of types and sizes. Pessary fitting may require two or more office visits in order to select the proper type and size of pessary that will work for you.

Urethral insert:

A urethral insert is a small disposable device worn in the urethra to temporarily block leakage of urine due to stress incontinence. The device is removed for urination.

Various overactive bladder medications:

There are several brands of overactive bladder medications on the market to treat urge urinary incontinence. These medications work by relaxing the bladder muscle. Side effects are usually mild and include dry mouth, dry eyes, blurred vision, urinary retention, constipation, dizziness, or drowsiness. Changing the brand or dose of medication can decrease side effects.

Surgical treatments:

Midurethral sling:

A midurethral sling is a small strip of material that is placed beneath the urethra. It provides a firm surface against which the urethra can be compressed during physical activity to prevent stress urinary incontinence. In female patients, this procedure involves a small incision in the vagina. In men, the incision is made in the perineum (the area between the scrotum and the anus). There are a variety of types of midurethral slings.

Urethral injections:

A transurethral or periurethral injection is a simple outpatient procedure in which a substance is injected to narrow the urethra and prevent leakage.

Sacral nerve modulation:

Sacral nerve modulation is an FDA-approved treatment for urinary urgency, frequency, urge incontinence, and retention. Sacral nerve modulation uses a small device that is implanted under the skin of one of the upper buttocks. It works by gently stimulating the sacral nerves to help the bladder function more normally.

Chemodenervation of the bladder (botulinum toxin type A):

Currently, it is considered third line therapy for overactive bladder/urge urinary incontinence. It can be very effective in patients with neurogenic bladder or  urge urinary incontinence who are not responsive to anticholinergic medications.

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Dr. Patrick Culligan, MD | Cornell Urology

Patrick J. Culligan

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Bilal Chughtai

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Tanaka J. Dune

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Dr. Richard K. Lee, M.D. | Cornell Urology

Richard Lee

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