Incontinence impacts younger women, not just your grandparents

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Urinary incontinence is when someone experiences frequent urgency and leakage. It impacts about 50% of adult women.

WASHINGTON — Urinary incontinence is a topic many people simply don’t want to discuss – but it impacts a large number of people. Proof this is becoming more common is in the numbers – the adult diaper industry is booming. According to IMARC Group, It’s valued at about $16.7 billion now and projected to reach $26.1 billion by 2027.

Allison Fitzsimmons is a runner, whose miles have been impacted by urinary incontinence. Being able to make it long distances is such a big deal for her, WUSA9 interviewed her in her happy place –the streets of D.C. where she runs.

“I feel like I got a part of me back that I had felt like I lost after having my daughters,” Allison said.

She explained not being able to make it long distances after giving birth was devastating and took a toll on her mental health.

The 34-year-old is one of the millions of women who experienced urinary incontinence. The US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using data from 2000 to 2014, estimates 50 to 70 percent of women over age 60 are impacted. An analysis cited by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health says 16% of women younger than 30 deal with incontinence.

Allison’s problem started after the birth of her first daughter.

“While running, as soon as I tried to increase my pace or intensity, I wouldn’t be able to control my bladder,” she said.

I would find when I would go on walks it was very difficult to control,” 78-year-old Judy Frank said. “I would often be with people, and it would feel like I was anxious about whether or not I could get to the bathroom in time.”

Judy was at the point where she was considering adult diapers — she’s not alone. Market research shows that the industry has continued to grow.

“That was a very upsetting alternative for me to think about,” she said.

“Women are embarrassed to even talk to me about it,” Urogynecologist Dr. Shobha Sikka said.

She explained childbirth and age are the two major contributing factors to the numbers, but there are many new treatment options now.

“We do mild electric stimulation of the pelvic floor; this is a device that can be placed in the vaginal canal,” Dr. Sikka explained of the options.

There’s also a bulking gel.

“It’s a very soft gel, like 95% water,” Dr. Sikka said. “It just gives strength to the tissue.”

Botox can also be used to help treat this issue.

“What the Botox injection does is it helps relax the bladder,” she said. “Just like you know you get Botox in your face, and it helps with the wrinkles.”

There are many other options for treatment.

“Women don’t know how much medicine has expanded in this direction; there’s so many wonderful options,” Dr. Sikka said. “Literally for most of these procedures they just take a day off and that’s it.”

After Allison’s gel bulking treatments, she now sees a future logging many more miles.

“I feel like there’s a part of me that I remember that I got back,” she said.

 She wants other women to know something important.

“I would say that while it’s not a super glamorous topic to talk about, it’s real, and lots of women are dealing with it and there’s no shame in it,” she said.

Dr. Sikka said typically, insurance covers most of these treatments, with a couple exceptions.

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