Urinary Incontinence: Is it Part of Normal Aging?
As many as a full quarter of Americans experience urinary incontinence, according to the Urology Care Foundation. However, experts struggle to put an exact number on the prevalence of this condition for one reason: most people suffer in silence out of either embarrassment or the belief that there’s nothing that can be done to remedy the problem. But the truth is, urinary incontinence doesn’t have to be part of the aging equation. Let’s take a closer look at this common health issue, along with highlighting some management and treatment options.
The 411 on Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence ranges in severity from mild occasional urine leakage to complete involuntary loss of bladder control.
Types of urinary incontinence include the following: leaks due to pressure on the bladder (“stress incontinence”); sudden, intense urges which make getting to the bathroom on time impossible (“urge incontinence”), continual dribbling because the bladder never fully empties (“overflow incontinence”), physical or mental impairments which lead to accidents (“functional incontinence”), and a combination of several of these types (“mixed incontinence”).
Unfortunately, due to the the stigma surrounding urinary incontinence, many patients fail to seek medical intervention. However, when urinary incontinence begins interfering with everyday activities, it can cause social, emotional and physical problems. Seeing a doctor is also important due to the rare chance that urinary incontinence may indicate a serious underlying condition.
Seeing a Doctor for Urinary Incontinence
If your aging loved one is struggling with urinary incontinence, a conversation with his/her general practitioner is a good starting point. This visit will likely involve answering a series of basic questions about symptoms and lifestyle, as well as several basic tests, including a urinalysis and post-void residual measurement. Your loved one may also be asked to begin keeping a bladder diary.
The general practitioner may refer you to a specialist, such as a urologist, gynecologist, or urogynecologist, or for recommended special testing, such as urodynamic testing, a cystoscopy, a cystogram, and a pelvic ultrasound.
Urinary Incontinence Treatment
Depending on the type of incontinence, extent of symptoms, and/or underlying causes, a number of treatments exist for urinary incontinence. These include specialized exercises, behavioral techniques, and lifestyle modifications, such as bladder training, double voiding, scheduled toilet trips, and fluid and diet management.
Additionally, electrical stimulation, medication, medical devices, and a number of interventional therapies may also be used in the treatment of urinary incontinence.
In cases where these approaches are unsuccessful, your aging loved one's doctor may recommend surgery.
While urinary incontinence may not be preventable, a few techniques do reduce its risk and/or offer alleviation of symptoms, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating more fiber, and avoiding bladder irritants, such as acidic foods and caffeine.
While urinary incontinence is a very real problem for millions of people, you don’t have to accept this common medical condition as a natural part of aging. If you or someone you love suffers from this condition, a visit to the doctor can be essential to both safeguarding ongoing health and enhancing quality of life.
- While people are often embarrassed to discuss their urinary incontinence, the issue is both extremely common and treatable.
- A doctor offers invaluable partnership in evaluating and treating the causes of urinary incontinence.
- Treatments range from behavioral to surgical.
- Addressing urinary incontinence is an important part of promoting comprehensive health and wellbeing.
About Marissa Salvesen
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.