Healthcare Hotline: Silent health issues stymie women
Hotline doctor says there are often 'simple solutions'
Jason Olson, Deseret News
Urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse are among the most common and least discussed women's health issues.
That silence is a shame, says Dr. Richard Labasky, a urologist at Alta View Hospital, because "many times there are simple solutions."
Labasky and Dr. Holly Clark, gastroenterologist at LDS Hospital, will answer questions about women's silent health issues during today's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline. From 10 a.m. to noon, they'll take phoned-in questions. All calls are confidential. The number is 1-800-925-8177.
Common urologic issues for women include incontinence, interstitial cystitis, overactive bladder, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections. The doctors will also address gastrointestinal issues, some of which may have a hormonal component. Irritable bowel syndrome is common for women.
Recent research from the University of Utah said about one in four women experience a pelvic floor problem, and Labasky has seen that in his practice as well, he says.
Pelvic floor problems include prolapse, in which structures sag or bulge, which causes a feeling of pressure or discomfort. The vagina, bladder and rectum are among the bodies that can prolapse. Some of the women also experience incontinence, which can occur without prolapse, too.
Prolapse is more common as women get older because tissue weakens. Pregnancy increases the risk for both stress incontinence and prolapse.
Because of reluctance to talk about it, even with the doctor, that type of problem is typically not dealt with early, Labasky says.
Treatments may be surgical or nonsurgical, but when an operation is required, it's usually quicker and more reliable because of technical and other advances. Most are done on an outpatient basis or with an overnight stay. Routine activity can be resumed in a week or two, he says.
A device called a vaginal pessary is a removable tool to manage prolapse. A silicon device supports the sagging tissue.Muscle exercises are among the most effective treatments for stress incontinence. Physicians may also use tiny probes to stimulate and strengthen muscles, which works about 30 to 40 percent of the time, he says. To control bladder leakage, a tiny wire may be attached to a nerve, where it sends a steady signal to the bladder "that tells it to behave," Labasky says.
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