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OB / GY N & U R O LO G Y Many Options Available to Treat Female Bladder Problems While as many as half of all women at some point in their lives experience what is known as pelvic-floor dysfunction, they often keep the problem hidden, even from their doctor. “Many women are embarrassed to talk about bladder problems,” says Erin Mellano, MD, a UCLA urogynecologist in the South Bay. “But they should understand that this is a very common problem, with a variety of treatment options that can dramatically improve their quality of life.” Pelvic-floor dysfunction can include such issues as diminished bladder or bowel control, as well as pelvic-organ prolapse — the descending of the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel or rectum as a result of weakening pelvic muscles. The most common symptoms relate to bladder control. This can include stress incontinence — the involuntary leakage of urine as a result of increased abdominal pressure (such as from coughing or sneezing) — or overactive bladder, defined as either the need to urinate frequently or the inability to hold urine long enough to reach the bathroom. Dr. Mellano notes that approximately one-in-four young women, at least half of postmenopausal middle-aged women and up to 75 percent of older women suffer from one of these symptoms. UCLAHEALTH.ORG 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631) “These challenges are common to many, many women but, once they are accurately diagnosed by a physician with specialty training in pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, they can successfully be treated with well-tolerated therapies tailored to the individual’s needs,” says Z. Chad Baxter, MD, a UCLA urologist in Santa Monica. The urinary and bowel symptoms resulting from pelvic-organ prolapse can have similar quality-of-life impacts. Pelvic-organ prolapse is believed to affect 30 percent of women — with the most common risk factors being pregnancy, age and menopause. Women often believe that surgery or medications are their only treatment options. “That’s unfortunate because most pelvic-floor disorders are easily treatable, often without surgery,” says Christopher Tarnay, MD, chief of the Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. The doctors explain that there are many effective treatments for pelvic-floor dysfunction that don’t involve surgery.