Is incontinence, prolapse and sexual dysfunction a normal process of aging?
In June, I had an opportunity to present my research project at the World Confederation for Physical Therapy Asia Western Pacific Region Conference in Bangkok. My research project was on help seeking behaviour in women over 55 years old with pelvic floor dysfunction living independently in Australia.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a broad term encompassing bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction as well as prolapse. It is a large problem affecting many aging women in Australia and has a significant cost to society. Despite many successful treatments being available not many women seek help for their condition.
According to my research, many Australian women over 55 years believe that pelvic floor dysfunction is a normal part of ageing; they indicated that they were self-managing their problems. But that is not the case! I can let you know now that pelvic floor dysfunction is not normal and you should seek help if you experience the symptoms. Also many women do not recognise that they have symptoms. (This is because they think these problems are a normal part of ageing!)
So if you have any of these following symptoms below, you should seek help:
1. Needing to rush to get to the toilet or being unable to delay an urge.
2. Going to the toilet more than 7 times during the day and more than once at night.
3. Leaking urine before getting to the toilet or when you cough, sneeze, lift or exercise.
4. Soiling or losing control of your bowel.
5. Heaviness in the vagina, feeling of something falling out of vagina or noticing a lump in the vagina.
6. Pain during sexual intercourse.
One of the pitfalls of trying to manage these conditions without professional help, is that it can lead to the development of bad habits. This will potentially worsen your symptoms. Some of those who experience urinary incontinence may try to go to the toilet more often in an attempt to decrease episodes of incontinence. Although this may initially be helpful, in the long term you may start to experience more frequent need to go to the toilet. This may eventually lessen your quality of life.
It is vital to get an expert assessment and management plan early from a Women’s Health Physiotherapist. So don’t put up with your symptoms and take a step to regain control! Speak to one of our Women’s Health Physiotherapists about how we can help you.
Usanee (Cee) Heron (Tangyotkajohn).