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You’ve most likely heard of urology and gynecology. But urogynecology is a medical specialty that many aren’t familiar with. Also known as female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (FPMRS), urogynecology is a subspecialty for OB/GYNs focused on non-life-threatening pelvic floor dysfunctions.
“The most common pelvic floor disorder is urinary incontinence, or a lack of bladder control. Other common issues include overactive bladder and pelvic organ prolapse, which can happen when the uterus or bladder drops because of weakened muscles,” said Woojin Chong, M.D., urogynecologist at Inspira Medical Group. “These conditions may be uncomfortable or embarrassing to deal with, but they are very treatable.”
Your bladder is usually controlled by nerves and muscles. Incontinence happens when nerves and muscles stop working properly and urine leaks out.
Urinary incontinence is about twice as common in women than men. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, the weight of the fetus and weakening of muscles during childbirth can contribute to urinary incontinence. Hormonal changes during menopause can also cause incontinence, as can neurological disorders. In addition, certain foods and medications can act as diuretics and cause temporary incontinence.
Age, being overweight, smoking and family history are also risk factors for urinary incontinence.
There are several types of urinary incontinence, including:
- Stress urinary incontinence: leakage when coughing, laughing or sneezing
- Urge urinary incontinence: leakage due to frequent urgency to urinate (also called overactive bladder)
- Mixed urinary incontinence: a combination of stress and urge incontinence
- Neurogenic bladder: leakage due to a neurological condition, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- Functional incontinence: leakage due to mental status, many times accompanied by fecal incontinence
“If you are suffering from urine leakage, or another issue of your lower urinary tract, it’s important to have a conversation with your primary care provider, who can then refer you to a urogynecologist,” said Dr. Chong.
When you see a urogynecologist, they will start by asking about your medical history. In addition, they may ask you questions about how often you use the bathroom, how much water you drink and if you eat or drink any foods that would irritate the bladder.
“Treatments for urinary incontinence depend on the cause, severity, what patients prefer and their overall health,” said Dr. Chong. “Some treatments include modifying your behavior, medication, surgical and non-surgical procedures.”
Urinary incontinence not only affects your personal life; left untreated, it can cause skin irritation and rashes and increase your risk of urinary tract infections.
When you are ready for help, a urogynecologist can offer treatment options that help you get back to your normal life.