Talking About Incontinence With Your Doctor

  • Many, if not most people, have a very difficult time talking about incontinence to their doctor or other healthcare professional. Having urinary incontinence is an embarrassing condition to have, and many people feel they are alone because it is just not something people like to talk about. In actuality, urinary incontinence is an extremely prevalent problem, and people shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their doctor about it. For many years, women have accepted incontinence as a normal part of aging. While it is true that age plays a role, incontinence does not need to be accepted without an attempt at treatment or control. Men can also have incontinence, but it is much less common than it is in women. Male urinary incontinence is usually due to either a previous urologic surgery, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or a neurologic disorder.
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    Urinary incontinence is one of the most common chronic diseases in women, ranking higher than diabetes or high blood pressure. Most people don’t think about incontinence on that level, but the impact of incontinence as far as healthcare dollars are concerned is quite high. Prevalence across all ages of women is between 12%-55% of women. That translates into a lot of money being spent on pads, diapers, clothing costs and treatment of urinary tract or skin infections.

    In addition to healthcare dollars, health risks are also increased with incontinence. Women with incontinence are at a higher risk for falls because of the frequent trips to the restroom which can translate into a greatly increased risk for broken bones, especially hips. Overall, urinary incontinence accounts for $26 billion annually for care and consequences of the disease. Because of all of the previously mentioned issues, as well as your overall wellbeing, your doctor wants to know that you are having urinary problems. It can seem like a very embarrassing situation, but realize you are absolutely not the first, or the last patient to have this problem.

    If you regularly see a primary physician or healthcare provider, it is completely appropriate to bring up your incontinence concerns during a routine visit. It may seem difficult for you to bring up the issue on your own, so here are some ways you can work it into the conversation if you feel embarrassed about just stating that you have urinary incontinence.

    1. “I’ve seen adds on the television and in magazines for some bladder medications, and I wanted to know if they would be right for me.”
    2. “I was wondering if you could give me the name/referral to a urologist because I am having some problems with my bladder.”
    3. “Do you think some of my medications could be causing me to have trouble with my bladder?”
    4. “I am having trouble sleeping at night because I have to get up frequently.”

    These are just a few examples, but they are a few ideas on how to approach the subject. Please remember, you should not be embarrassed to talk to you healthcare provider. He or she wants to know that you are having this problem so they can help treat you accordingly.
Published On: July 26, 2006