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Dr. Linda BrubakerFor two decades, Nancy Brandau, now 68, suffered from incontinence. She tried everything, including surgery, with no success. Finally she got an injection of collagen in her urethra, which eased the problem by compressing the area by the urethra’s outlet. “I just don’t want to be wet,” she says. But even now, she adds, “it’s not unusual for me to have to go four times in the morning.”
Older men sometimes face an incontinence problem as their prostate gland grows and pushes against the bladder. But early in life, women are at greater risk, largely because of childbirth, which puts pressure on the pelvic floor and the nerves. “A third of women will become [permanently] incontinent after a single normal vaginal delivery,” says Dr. Linda Brubaker, a professor of ob-gyn and urology at Loyola University Health System. Though the problem may start with a small leakage, often it gets progressively worse as women age and their muscles and nerve fibers weaken. “Incontinence is the number one reason women go to the nursing home,” says Dr. Sheila Dugan, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Rush.
One promising area of research: Botox. Preliminary studies at Loyola indicate that administering the muscle relaxer straight into the bladder can decrease the spilling of urine. Loyola researchers are comparing Botox to typical overactive bladder medications, such as Toviaz and Vesicare. (To enroll, call 708-216-4188.) They are also getting ready to enroll women for a rehabilitation study for first-time mothers.
HEART DISEASE | FERTILITY | PREGNANCY | BREAST AND OVARIAN CANCER
CERVICAL AND ENDOMETRIAL CANCER | OSTEOPOROSIS
HEADACHES, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, AND OTHER NEUROLOGIC DISORDERS | DEPRESSION
EATING DISORDERS | INCONTINENCE | IMMUNE DISORDERS | SLEEP DISORDERS
Photograph: Taylor Castle Assistant: Ace Ujimori Hair and Makeup: Anthony Balthazar