Bladder Control Can Be “Learned”
Many women with urinary incontinence–the lack of voluntary control of the bladder–can be taught bladder control techniques that will help them avoid the need for medications.
A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1998;280:1995-2000) found that more women gained control of their bladder through “behavioral therapy” than through drugs. The study included 197 women who suffered from urge incontinence–the sudden urge to urinate and the inability to make it to the toilet in time. The women were either prescribed a medication called oxybutynin (Ditropan) or taught bladder control techniques with biofeedback. During biofeedback, women were connected to a device that gave a graphic display of the activity of their bladder muscles. They were encouraged to pause and contract the bladder muscles repeatedly to reduce the urgency.
Symptoms improved during the 8-week study in 81% of the behavioral therapy group compared with 68.5% of the drug therapy group, reported Kathryn L. Burgio, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. However, neither method was evaluated for its long-term effectiveness. The American Urological Association points out that when drugs are prescribed, patients are usually instructed in bladder control techniques as well. A combination of the two may be the best approach.
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