When Karen Sworden became tired of battling ongoing bladder control issues, she finally found the courage to discuss it with her doctor.
“I’m so glad I said something,” said 64-year-old Sworden of Upper St. Clair. “If I hadn’t, I’d still be struggling. The solution he presented to me has changed my life. My bladder works just as well as it did before … maybe even better.”
Dr. Malay C. Sheth, Sworden’s physician at Washington Ob/Gyn Associates, specializes in bladder issues, and for years he has been correcting bladder issues for his patients.
In November, Sheth gave a lecture at Washington Hospital to discuss treatment options for overactive bladder issues. Sheth discussed with those in attendance the types of bladder issues that are most common and outlined for them what treatment options might work best for specific scenarios.
In the case of Sworden, Sheth recommended the Interstim system, a neuromodulation therapy available since the 1990s that targets the communication problem between the brain and the nerves that control the bladder. Patients must first try Interstim for a trial period with the use of an external device. If the patient is a candidate, an internal device is inserted for long-term therapy.
“I don’t even realize it’s there,” said Sworden. “The initial surgery was like nothing at all. It was a breeze. It fits just under my skin near my hip and it causes me no pain or issues at all.
“At first, much like a pacemaker, I had to go have a few minor adjustments made, but other than that, I am just like a normal person again. I recommend Interstim to anyone who is having a problem, especially for those whose issues have gotten so bad that they don’t even want to go out anymore. It is amazing. I am so pleased with the results.”
More than 33 million people in the United States suffer from bladder control problems, compared to 5.4 million with Alzheimer’s disease, and 25.8 million with diabetes.
The most common bladder control problems include stress incontinence (involuntary loss of urine), urinary retention (cannot empty bladder completely), overactive bladder (have to go frequently), or mixed incontinence (stress and urge incontinence mixed).
With the help of advice from a physician, options to control bladder problems can range from behavioral changes (diet, pelvic floor exercises and muscle retraining) to surgery, bulking agents, medications, catherization, Interstim and other interventions.
“If someone is constantly worrying or feeling distracted by issues with their bladder, it is time to see a doctor about the problem,” said Sheth. “Whether you have been battling with bladder issues for a week or for 10 years, it’s your health, and you should be able to talk to your doctor about anything. If you don’t find the answers you are seeking, don’t stop until you find a source that gives you the results you are looking for.
“You owe it to yourself. There are answers out there. They might not come with a 100 percent cure rate, but you have to at least give it a try.”