Both urinary and/or fecal incontinence in women increase with age affecting 30%-40% of middle-aged women, and up to 50% of older women. While millions of women are impacted by incontinence, (leaky bladder) a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine warns that the most commonly prescribed drugs for the treatment of overactive bladder may be associated with dementia.
In a study of almost 300,000 adults in the United Kingdom, there was nearly a 50% increased odds of dementia associated with taking an anticholinergic drug for 3 or more years. As a result of this research many women have stopped taking their medication and are now dealing with the social isolation and distress associated with incontinence.
Lauren Streicher, M.D, a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, emphasizes that for women who suffer from incontinence there are non-pharmacologic treatments to reduce or eliminate involuntary loss of urine and stool. Pelvic floor physical therapy is effective first line therapy. However, most women do not have access to pelvic floor physical therapy or are unwilling to undergo treatment.
As an alternative or adjunct to pelvic floor PT, there are now home devices designed to reproduce many aspects of pelvic floor physical therapy. Attain is an over the counter, at home device, developed in conjunction with pelvic floor physical therapists, and has been FDA cleared for the treatment of both urinary and fecal incontinence. Attain utilizes electrical stimulation and biofeedback along with a guided exercise program to stimulate muscles at specific frequencies to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, calming the overactive bladder muscles and providing neuromuscular re-training.
Attain also provides a lighted biofeedback graph and visual cues to guide the user through a series of timed, voluntary contractions along with a relaxation phase, much like a physical therapy session.
“People taking anticholinergic medications should consult their medical provider before they stop taking their medication, but should also be reassured that stopping their medication does not mean they need to resort to diapers,” adds Streicher.