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Pelvic floor disorders can be treated effectively in different ways

Laughter has often been called the best medicine. But for some women, the idea of laughing in public strikes fear in their hearts. These women suffer from urinary incontinence. They believe they are suffering alone, but according to recent research, almost 25 percent of American women have a pelvic floor disorder such as urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Because of embarrassment, or the belief that these conditions are a natural part of aging, women don't tell their doctors about the problem. But physicians not only know how to treat incontinence and prolapse, they also have several different ways to do it. Treatments today are minimally invasive and each one can be matched to every woman to ensure the best chances for a successful outcome. With guidance from your physician, the choice is yours.

What is pelvic organ prolapse?

To prolapse means to fall out of place, and that's what a woman feels is happening when pelvic organs, such as the bladder, have dropped out of their normal position. The organ has created a herniation because a tissue called the endopelvic fascia, which forms the connective structures of the pelvic floor, has weakened and given away.

How does it feel?

Depending on the degree of the problem, women may feel discomfort or even pain, and may experience abnormal bladder function, such as difficulty urinating or urinary incontinence.

How is it treated?

Kegel exercises, the contracting and relaxing of pelvic floor muscles, may help those who are only experiencing mild symptoms. But when a woman's quality of life is affected, she should discuss surgical options with her gynecologist.

What is urinary incontinence?

Women can experience a small leakage of urine every once in a while, but when leaks become frequent or severe, that's urinary incontinence or loss of bladder control. The two most common types are urge incontinence and stress incontinence.

How does it feel?

Urge incontinence feels like just that—an overwhelming urge to empty the bladder that often causes leaks before a woman can get to the bathroom. Stress incontinence occurs when the tissues that support the bladder or the muscles of the urethra are weakened. A woman may feel leakage when she laughs, coughs, sneezes, or engages in strenuous activity.

How is it treated?

Kegel exercises and medications are used to treat urge incontinence. Kegels can also help with mild stress incontinence. But severe stress incontinence is treated surgically. Women should not hesitate to tell their doctors if they are experiencing symptoms of a pelvic floor disorder. You don't have to suffer, you're not alone.

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