San Francisco forum aims to open dialogue on incontinence

By Karin Rush-Monroe on September 16, 2009

UCSF and the National Association For Continence (NAFC) are holding a public workshop on October 3 to help women understand how they can control and treat incontinence. Even though urinary incontinence can be improved in eight out of 10 cases, fewer than half of those with bladder problems ever talk about the condition with their health care professionals, according to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research.

Urinary incontinence, or the unintentional loss of urine, is a problem for more than 25 million Americans.  Of this group, about 16 million are women with stress urinary incontinence, or leakage with sneezing, laughing, or coughing, the NAFC notes. 

“Incontinence is common yet rarely discussed. Consequently, many women needlessly suffer in silence and don’t seek treatment,” said Nancy Muller, executive director of the NAFC. “And contrary to popular belief, incontinence is not normal or an inevitable part of aging.  Most cases of urinary incontinence can be treated non-surgically with lifestyle or behavioral changes, physical therapy or medication.” 

The public workshop, titled “A Woman’s Guide to Pelvic and Bladder Health”, will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at San Francisco’s Hotel Kabuki. Registration is $10. To sign up, visit http://www.nafc.org/ or call 1-800-BLADDER (252-3337). The half day event features presentations from recognized experts on pelvic and bladder health followed by a question and answer session. Topics include the bladder’s function, the role of pelvic support, types of incontinence, the impact of aging, and bowel health. Surgical and non-surgical treatments also will be discussed.

“We want to create an environment at this forum that encourages women to learn the facts about incontinence and motivates them to take actions to improve their quality of life,” said Nancy Milliken, MD, vice dean, UCSF School of Medicine and director, UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. “It is particularly important to erase the discomfort around this issue now, since the incidence of incontinence – along with associated costs - has the potential to grow as the baby boomer population ages and obesity rises.”

Incontinence is a condition that can be triggered by surgery, childbirth, diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and degenerative changes associated with aging, among other causes. Studies also have indicated that obesity is a strong risk factor for urinary incontinence. A recent study led by UCSF researchers demonstrated that behavioral weight-loss programs can be an effective way to reduce urinary incontinence in women who are overweight or obese.

The clinical planning leads for the forum are Jeanette S. Brown, MD, director of the UCSF Women’s Continence Center and a professor in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, and Donna Deng, MD, a professor in the UCSF Department of Urology.

The UCSF Women’s Continence Center was established in 1991 and in 2004, the UCSF Center for Pelvic Physiology was established for women and men with a variety of bowel and bladder problems. 

According to the NAFC, anyone experiencing the following warning signs of bladder control problems should talk to a health care professional:

  • Leakage of urine which impacts one’s activities
  • Leakage of urine causing embarrassment
  • Leakage of urine after an operation, such as a hysterectomy or Caesarean section
  • An urgent need to rush to the bathroom and/or loss of urine if you do not arrive in time
  • Frequent bladder infections
  • Urinating more frequently than usual without a bladder infection
  • Pain related to filling the bladder and/or during urination in the absence of a bladder infection
  • Changes in urination related to a neurological condition such as stroke, spinal cord injury, or multiple sclerosis

About UCSF
UCSF is a leading university that advances health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.

UCSF also is a premier center for clinical care, training, and research in women’s health. UCSF was designated one of the original six National Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health by the Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Office on Women’s Health.  The mission of the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health is to promote multidisciplinary research on women’s health across the lifespan; clinical services that are innovative, evidence based and patient centered; professional training which teaches the importance of sex and gender differences; career development for women as leaders; and partnerships with community organizations to impact the health and well being of women beyond the traditional walls of the university setting.

About the National Association for Continence (NAFC)
The National Association For Continence is a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is threefold: 1) to educate the public about the causes, diagnosis categories, treatment options, and management alternatives for bladder and bowel control problems, nocturnal enuresis, voiding dysfunction, and related pelvic floor disorders; 2) to network with other organizations and agencies to elevate visibility and priority given to these health concerns; and 3) to advocate on behalf of consumers who suffer from symptoms as a result of disease or other illness, obstetrical, surgical or other trauma, or deterioration due to the aging process itself.  NAFC is broadly funded by consumers, healthcare professionals, and industry.  It is the world’s largest and most prolific consumer advocacy organization devoted exclusively to this field.  For more information, visit http://www.nafc.org/.