Dubai: Around 42 per cent women in the UAE at the mean age of 38 suffer from urinary incontinence, a study has found.
Urinary incontinence is a medical condition that is marked by accidental or involuntary release of urine triggered by a sudden pressure on the bladder such as laughter, coughing or sneezing.
The study stated that nearly 80 per cent complained of disrupted daily life and activities such as praying, social engagements, physical activities and intimacy. Urinary incontinence affects 400 million women worldwide, and the numbers in the UAE are of concern to gynaecologists and urologists here who are urging women to shed their inhibitions and seek medical help.
A significant aspect of this concern also owes itself to the fact that most urologists in the country are male and this inhibits women from seeking a medical opinion on a condition that is seen as socially embarrassing, and is also viewed as a social stigma and a cultural barrier.
Dr Ahlam Bu Saber, UAE’s only Emirati urologist and specialist urologist at Al Qasimi Hospital, Sharjah, told Gulf News: “With early intervention and advice on nutrition, lifestyle changes and exercises, most middle-aged women can control this problem. However, women hesitate to consult a doctor. Sometimes neglecting the problem for long causes deterioration in their condition until surgery becomes the imminent solution to resolve the issue.”
Common incontinence problems
Stress Incontinence (SI): Also known as light incontinence, this occurs when a woman sneezes, coughs, laughs, jogs, or does other things that put pressure on the bladder, resulting in a slight leakage of urine. This is the most common type of bladder control problem in women. These bladder problems are caused by weak muscles in the lower urinary tract. SI is a dominant type of condition prevalent among women worldwide.
•Urge Incontinence (UI): This condition happens when a woman has a strong need to urinate but can’t reach the toilet in time. This can happen even when your bladder is holding only a small amount of urine. Some women may have no warning before that may result in an accidental leak. In others, a leak could be triggered by the sound or touch of running water.
Dr Bu Saber says women usually develop this condition after multiple deliveries or difficult pregnancies. “When a woman experiences involuntary leakage, she must consult a urologist. The doctor can take her history, examine, evaluate and assess her situation. The first line of treatment is Kegel exercises (see box) which will help tone the lax bladder muscles. We have qualified physiotherapists who can teach a woman the correct technique of this exercise. Besides this, women who are obese and have poor nutrition are advised to make lifestyle changes to bring down their weight which, to some extent, resolves this issue.”
When the problem is severe, a surgery which involves taping the lax muscles, is carried out.
“The success rate of [the surgeries] is very high and after a few weeks, during which the patient is advised not to pick up heavy objects and seek proper rest, she can resume her normal life.”
While neglect of this condition is not life-threatening, the fact is urinary incontinence can destroy a woman’s self-esteem and interfere in her social and family life. “We advise women to seek medical consultation and see whether their problem can be first resolved with non-surgical options and then advise this surgery which can change their quality of life,” said Dr Bu Saber.
Kegel the most effective exercise for SI
Squeeze the same muscles you would use to stop your urine. Your belly and thighs should not move.
Hold the squeeze for three seconds, then relax for three seconds.
Start with three seconds, then add one second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds.
Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times a session. Do three or more sessions a day.
For best results, more than three sets of Kegel exercises should be done every day.
Diet advice to avoid SI
Cut back on caffeine and fizzy drinks
Eat foods high in fibre to help avoid constipation
Maintain a healthy weight
Exercise moderately to keep your muscles toned
Causes of SI
Pregnancies’ frequency and post-pregnancy changes
Type of childbirth delivery and pelvic surgeries
Menopause and other hormonal diseases
Obesity and diabetes
Illnesses that cause chronic coughing or sneezing
Excess consumption of caffeine and smoking
High-impact activities over many years
You might experience SI when you:
Get out of a car
Exercise and lift heavy weights
Laugh, cough or sneeze