Urinary incontinence, or the involuntary loss of urine, is a common condition in women. Symptoms of incontinence are disruptive and embarrassing, which means many women manage in silence. As a progressive condition, that generally means a steep curtailing in the quality of life, as women begin spending more time at home to avoid the potential for accidents in public. Pregnancy, childbirth, aging, neurologic conditions and other factors play a role in the development of incontinence and overactive bladder. For some, bowel leakage or fecal incontinence also add to the frustration. But women’s health deserves so much more than an adult diaper or pad, and the first step is understanding your options and whether incontinence in women can be reversed.
Treatments for Incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and urge urinary incontinence (UUI) are the two primary types of incontinence. SUI is associated with activities that increase abdominal pressure, such as coughing or exercising, while UUI involves a sudden and intense urge to urinate. Conventional treatments don’t address the root cause of either type of incontinence and focus instead on treatment the symptoms with pads, diapers, pelvic floor exercises (Kegels), medications, procedures like Botox injections, and surgical interventions. While these methods may provide partial or temporary relief for some women, most do not experience significant improvement and may experience undesirable side effects.
But there is another option. Sacral neuromodulation, or SNM, is a groundbreaking therapeutic modality in the field of incontinence, and it really can help reverse incontinence. The procedure involves the implantation of a small device, generally referred to as a “pelvic floor pacemaker” or “interstim device,” which is placed beneath the skin of the upper buttock. This device is connected to a lead that is carefully inserted near the sacral plexus, responsible for controlling the bladder and pelvic floor muscles.
The sacral nerves play a crucial role in regulating bladder function. SNM modulates the activity of these nerves, helping to normalize communication between the muscles, nerves, pelvic floor, brain and the bladder. The pacemaker sends mild electrical impulses to the sacral nerves, effectively regulating bladder and bowel activity and reducing symptoms of urinary and fecal incontinence. It’s really as simple as that, and SNM offers several advantages over traditional treatments:
- Precision targeting. SNM directly targets the nerves involved in bladder control, offering a more specific and root-cause, targeted approach compared to other therapies.
- Adjustable and reversible. The neurostimulator settings can be adjusted to meet individual needs, allowing for personalized treatment. Additionally, SNM is a reversible procedure, offering flexibility in case the patient’s needs change over time.
- Minimized side effects. Unlike medications that may cause systemic side effects, SNM has fewer side effects because it acts locally on the nerves controlling the bladder.
- Patient selection and success rates. Patient selection is crucial for the success of SNM. Candidates typically undergo a trial period with an external trial stimulator to assess the potential benefits before the permanent implantation. Research indicates that SNM has shown significant success — over 90% in recent published studies — in improving symptoms and quality of life for many women who have not responded to other therapies.
The Bottom Line
Sacral neuromodulation represents a groundbreaking advancement in the management of urinary incontinence in women. Its precision, adjustability, and reversibility make it a favorable option, particularly for those who have not found relief with traditional therapies. As with any medical intervention, consultation with a healthcare professional is essential to determine the most suitable treatment plan based on individual needs and circumstances. At The Continence Center here in Reno, we’re happy to help. Contact our team today and let’s make 2024 the year you get a handle on incontinence.