All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for January 2004

Coping with incontinence

January, 2004
Kristina Krawchuk
Capital News 9

Fresh snow has fallen and now the race is on to hit the slopes--unless your race is to the restrooms.

Arlene Pericak, an incontinence patient, said, "When I was skiing, I would use the facilities at the bottom of the mountain, and when I got to the top, I would realize I would have to use them again."

Arlene Pericak's incontinence problem began after she gave birth to her third child. But she is not alone. One in four women between the ages of 30 and 59 will experience bladder control problems.

Cindy Monaghan, director of the Seton Health Incontinence Program, said, "They're exercising, you cough, you sneeze all of the sudden you're leaking a little urine. That little urine becomes a moderate amount of urine, and after many years people will say, 'oh no now it's a real issue.'"

Risk factors for bladder issues include pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, aging, especially in men with prostate problems, and chronic diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and congestive heart failure.

But Monaghan said there is reassuring news.

Monaghan said, "Surgery is really the exception with incontinence. It's not the first thing we look to do. Less than 5 percent of our patients actually needed the surgery to correct it."

The treatment to control the bladder is strengthening the muscles. They do that with Kagel exercises. How do you know if you can do a Kagel exercise? Well, if you can't squeeze when you sneeze, then it's time to come in for some help.

Monaghan said, "With women, we use a vaginal probe, there are no side effects to this. It's hooked up to a computer screen and the patient does the Kagels with a nurse practitioner and can see if they are squeezing the right muscle and how strong it is."

The goal is to have the patient off the biofeedback and doing the Kagels by themselves within the 12 week program.

Cindy also said you should watch your diet for foods that may irritate the bladder like caffeine and alcohol. In some cases NutraSweet, spicy or citrus foods can be a problem as well.

Now that Arlene watches her diet and continues her Kagel exercise, life is back to normal.

Pericak said, "I even remember waiting in line at the supermarket and thinking, 'oh jeez, you know maybe I should have gone to the bathroom, but I just went I should be ok.' And now with the exercises, I can wait in a long line and it's not a problem at all."

Now, she's just waiting for the white stuff to fall so she can spend less time in the restroom and more time on the slopes.

© Copyright 2004, TWEAN News Channel of Albany, L.L.C d.b.a. Capital News 9