Losing Just 5 Percent of Body Weight Can Improve Urinary Control
New research from the University of California at San Francisco suggests that weight loss, even as little as 5 percent of total body weight, can improve urinary continence in women.
Dr. Leslee Subak, who conducted the research with funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, recently shared her findings at the American Urogynecologic Society and International Urogynecological Association’s 2014 Scientific Meeting in Washington, D.C.
"If you lose weight, your incontinence appears to get better," said Subak, summing up the study, which focused on nearly 2,000 obese women who’d undergone bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery in women
A woman’s weight affects all facets of her health, and women nationwide are seeking bariatric surgery as a means to cure their obesity woes.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity means having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Body mass is measured by height and weight. While BMI is not a perfect indicator of health, it is widely used to assess certain health risks like type II diabetes and heart disease.
Urinary incontinence is just one of the many adverse health effects of obesity. And, while the alleviation of incontinence is usually not the main reason women seek bariatric and obesity surgeries, when weight is lost, incontinence is treated.
“Every 5 percent of weight loss from the patient’s baseline resulted in about a 30 percent greater chance of incontinence improvement. Because these women lost about six times more than that, their odds of improvement were about eight-fold greater,” Subak said.
Can bariatric surgery be a cure for incontinence?
In Subak’s study, remission of weekly incontinence episodes was achieved by 67 percent of the women at year 1, 60 percent at year 2, and 59 percent at year 3.
Remission was slightly higher for stress than for urgency incontinence. Stress incontinence is the loss of bladder control from a sneeze or when laughing, for example. Urgency incontinence is the loss of bladder control because of muscle spasms. Urgency incontinence is related to the nervous system while stress incontinence is due to loss of strength in the pelvic floor.
Complete remission (no episodes at follow-up) occurred in 29 percent, 27 percent, and 27 percent of women, respectively, at years 1, 2, and 3. Remission of incontinence episodes, coupled with the weight loss that spurred it, could greatly decrease a patient's need for incontinence supplies and bariatric supplies.