Many people are hesitant to ask their doctor about pelvic health matters, but I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of making him or her aware of any issues related to urinary incontinence. To help nudge you a bit, here are 10 reasons to speak with your doctor about this issue.
1. It might be a simple switch. Sometimes incontinence is a side effect of a medication that you're using for an entirely different reason. You might see results after your doctor switches your medication, dosage or timing.
2. You might be doing your Kegels incorrectly. I've heard from people who say they don't need to see a doctor because they're already doing Kegels (pelvic floor exercises). They swear they've been doing Kegels daily for years, only to find out—once they actually talk to an expert—that they've been doing them incorrectly. Also, pelvic floor exercises may be great for stress urinary incontinence, but won't do a thing for an overactive bladder. A doctor can help you determine what kind of incontinence you have and recommend a treatment option that will work for your specific situation.
3. You may not know all of your options. There are many treatment options available for incontinence. Sometimes people assume nothing can be done, or they decide (without speaking to a doctor) that they don't want the one treatment they're aware of ("I don't want surgery, so why bother talking to my doctor?") But new treatments are being developed all the time. Your doctor can let you know about all of your options so you can make an informed decision.
4. The doctor has seen (and heard) it all before. Your health is far too important to allow embarrassment to stand in the way. Trust me, your doctor has seen and heard it all before. If your heart wasn't working correctly or your leg was broken, you'd see a doctor. The same should be true for every area of your body—urinary issues included.
5. Incontinence can be a clue to more serious problems. Incontinence doesn't "just happen"—it is always caused by something else in the body that isn't working quite right. Remember, your bladder and bowel are affected by nerves and muscle function, so if they aren't working correctly, that could mean other parts of your body may not be working correctly. It's important to find out what the cause is, because it could reflect a larger problem.
6. It might have to do with what you’re consuming. The foods and drinks we consume pass through our bladder and bowel at some point, and certain ones can actually contribute to incontinence by irritating the lining of our bladders. Along with ruling out other possible causes, a health professional can also recommend simple dietary changes that could help you.
7. What you heard may be a myth. There are so many myths out there about incontinence that keep people from seeking treatment. The two biggies are that everyone experiences incontinence after having children or after a certain age. Guess what? It just isn’t so. While pregnancy and childbirth can cause incontinence, it certainly doesn't do so in everyone. And while incontinence is more prevalent as people age, many older people never experience any leakage. The fact is that it’s not normal at any age in any person.
8. There is a doctor out there who will take you seriously. Sometimes people give up on talking to a doctor after they feel they’ve been shot down by one physician. But just because one doctor didn't take you seriously, don't assume that will be the reaction from all medical professionals. Beyond talking to your primary care physician, contact a urologist (for men or women with urinary incontinence) or a urogynecologist (for women with urinary incontinence).
9. A small cost now may save you in the end. Keep in mind that, as with auto repairs and maintenance, early intervention and regular maintenance can often save you bundles by catching problems early. With incontinence, taking a medication or using a device, such as a pessary, may save you money in the long run over using absorbent products, often called "adult diapers."
10. Aren't you just plain tired of being wet? If you woke up tomorrow completely dry, without fear of leaking, how would your life be different? Incontinence often sets in slowly over the course of many months or even years, to the point that you can’t remember life before leaking. Considering the freedom you might enjoy without this constant fear may be just what you need to get you to the doctor’s office.