Millions of women suffer from an embarrassing problem that we don't want to talk about.
Urinary incontinence can occur while you're running or coughing and, for many, the sudden urge to go to the bathroom can lead to awkward accidents.
Drugs and surgery have long been the fix for incontinence but pelvic floor therapy is gaining in popularity and helping many women get their lives back.
Thursday night in a special Medical Moment Just before Six, we take a look at a treatment that is helping women leave the house without having to worry about an upsetting accident.
Let's face it. Most of us have been there at some point in our lives, especially if we've had babies or jobs that require heavy lifting.
Bladder control is a big issue for a lot of people, especially women. Dr. Carlton Lyons sees it every day.
“It's an unspoken problem, in that women are very embarrassed to talk about it and so they will go see a doctor and not mention it,” says Dr. Carlton Lyons, MD, OB/GYN, part of the NO Ind Center for Pelvic Health & GYN.
Dr. Lyons says by the time he sees them they are begging for relief. 64-year-old Peggy Johnson of South Bend says urinary incontinence really affected her lifestyle.
“The worst problem was when I came home from the store and as soon as the garage door closed I was in trouble and I had to get to the bathroom very quickly and sometimes I didn't always make it,” explains Peggy Johnson.
And that's what brought Peggy to the Northern Indiana Center for Pelvic Health where Dr. Lyons first uses a device called CMG to determine the reason for the incontinence which can be neurological or a problem with the anatomy.
Peggy has been through the program which includes using biofeedback to contract and strengthen her pelvic muscles in 15 minute sessions once a week for 12 weeks. Small probes are inserted vaginally for a proper reading.
“As she contracts those pelvic floor muscles she is going to close the flower,” says Dr. Lyons.
RN Diane Griffin coaches Peggy so that she gets the maximum benefit. When Peggy first started she couldn't close the flower at all.
“So the critical part of urinary incontinence is to accurately diagnose what the problem is,” says Dr. Lyons.
The second therapy Peggy uses involves neuromuscular stimulation.
“Now we are going to switch over and stimulate those muscles so she is not working to contract them but they will be stimulated to contract,” explains
Peggy says the combination therapy has been a game changer for her.
“I feel a lot more in control and that's really the good,” says Peggy. “I'd say at least 80 percent in control, because it's so much better not to have to worry about it.”
Urinary incontinence is also what brought 54-year-old Sue Nemeth to see Dr. Lyons. Sue has three grown sons, has had a hysterectomy and prolapse surgery but urinary incontinence is still an issue.
“Running to the bathroom and I just never knew where I was going to be and if there was a bathroom around and I always had to worry about that,” says Sue Nemeth who is undergoing pelvic floor therapy.
This is Sue's second visit and Dr. Lyons says usually patients will start to notice an improvement after three or four sessions.
Like Peggy, Sue had the same trouble lots of women face.
“With the coughing and sneezing and certain kind of movements,” says Sue.
She is also using the biofeedback technique that Peggy used. And like Peggy, Sue will also have 15 minutes of treatment with the neuromuscular stimulator.
Again, the treatment is meant to strengthen the pelvic muscles and control incontinence. Sue says she is hopeful she'll have the same success as Peggy.
“Help the urgency, especially at night,” says Sue. “Because I get up about four or five times a night and it's not fun. Yes Dr. Lyons is very confident, and he asked me to be confident because I'm not a very confident person, it helps me a lot.”
And Dr. Lyons says the good news is it helps a lot of women a lot.
“There have been multiple random control trials that have shown that women who have pelvic floor therapy show such an improvement,” says Dr. Lyons. “That is one of the first things they have done before they have surgery.”
And no longer have to worry about those moments.
If you don't have a problem with incontinence, Doctor Lyons has advice for younger women do those Kegel exercises you hear about during pregnancy.
And Peggy says she does exercises at home that help her keep her bladder under control.
Doctor Lyons says the therapy has been so successful that 80 percent of women are able to go off their medication and avoid surgery.
Carlton Lyons, M.D.
Northern Indiana Center for Pelvic Health and Gynecology
South Bend, Ind.
(574) 367-3800 ext. 78604