New Program to Treat Urinary Incontinence

March 30, 1999
News Office: Eve Harris (415) 885-7277

UCSF Medical Center has taken another step in establishing itself as a leader in treating urinary incontinence by combining the resources of the Women's Continence Center and the UCSF department of urology. The collaboration makes UCSF one of the few institutions in the country to approach incontinence from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Through the collaborative program, UCSF is drawing on both fields to strengthen clinical care and research. Gynecologists and urologists both treat incontinence and there is overlap in research and practice.

Urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine, is a silent epidemic that affects approximately 10 million to 15 million American adults.

Dr. Jeanette Brown, director of the Women's Continence Center and a UCSF associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said, "The goal for both of our departments is to make a cohesive program where there is an easy flow of information and research leading to creative and effective treatment."

With Dr. Wendy Leng, a urologist and UCSF assistant professor of urology, the department has expanded its base of expertise. Leng is one of the few female urologists in the country and the only female urologist in San Francisco. Until recently, men and male problems dominated urology, even though 85 percent of Americans suffering from lack of bladder control are women.

In addition to having an interest in female urology, Leng treats a wide range of patients and diseases, including problems related to male prostatic disease, spinal cord injuries and chronic neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

The causes behind urinary incontinence are not always known. Many conditions may contribute including pregnancy, childbirth, urinary tract infection, obesity and aging. Incontinence can be temporary or long-term and can often be cured by pelvic floor exercises, behavior modification, medication or surgery.

"Urinary incontinence is still largely a hidden problem, because the common perception remains that people have to live with it," Leng said. "People should not accept incontinence as a normal part of aging, especially when they are leading otherwise healthy, active lifestyles. It is readily treatable."