Weill Cornell Medicine Urology
Weill Cornell Medicine Urology
Overcoming the Stigma of Urinary Incontinence: How Doctors Can Empower Patients

Overcoming the Stigma of Urinary Incontinence: How Doctors Can Empower Patients

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Overcoming the Stigma of Urinary Incontinence

Although doctors' offices and hospitals are naturally the best places for those dealing with sudden urinary incontinence as a result of illness, they're not always the most comfortable or empowering places. The onset of incontinence can be associated with a great deal of embarrassment and shame, both because of the feeling of helplessness often experienced during hospital care and the lack of control over one's bladder in the hospital or at home. For incontinent women, in particular, the quality of life can drop significantly with the onset of the condition. Fortunately, for those who struggle with urinary incontinence, there are a number of ways the doctors who treat them can help to restore their sense of independence.

female pelvic health

Educate Both Patients and the Public

The most basic element of empowerment, when it comes to any medical condition, is knowledge. By educating patients about the realities of urinary incontinence, the situation can be demystified and made less "scary." Doctors should be sure to discuss the issue in a straightforward manner with patients, explaining what causes the condition, how it works, and how common it can actually be.

Recommend Discreet Products and Simple Exercises

Going to see a Urogynecologist doesn't mean you will only be offered surgical options. With regard to management, doctors can help patients feel in control by recommending and teaching exercises that can help. For female patients struggling with incontinence, Kegel exercises can be particularly beneficial in improving one's bladder control. There are also a variety of affordable incontinence products on the market today that are far more discreet than the adult diapers of the past. When surgery is the best option, it's important for patients to know that the current technology is designed to provide outstanding cure rates from simple outpatient procedures.

Provide Personal, Compassionate Support

Though it can be easy for medical professionals to put the science first, it’s important for doctors, nurses, and other caregivers to remember to consider the quality-of-life effects of urinary incontinence rather than just its medical aspects. For example, many patients find themselves missing work, skipping social events, and experiencing sexual dysfunction as a result of their condition.

The best way for a urologist or other physician to deal with these issues is to remember that their patients have lives beyond their medical concerns and to maintain empathy throughout treatment. Providing just a bit of additional emotional support can go a long way.

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