This month we are going to talk about one of those problems that no one wants to talk about. Urinary Incontinence. There, I said it. Now you can too.
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine and boy, is it common. Probably 50% of older women and 15% of older men suffer from this problem. But most older adults don’t tell their healthcare provider about it. Why? If you have followed this blog at all, you already know the answer. Because people think it’s normal, and that nothing can be done about it. Fortunately, people are wrong!
If you have episodes of involuntary loss of urine, please talk to your healthcare provider. The first thing he or she will do is ask you many questions. Don’t be embarrassed to answer these honestly! Honest answers will help determine the cause and the approach to treatment.
Some of the questions will likely include:
- How frequently is it happening?
- Is it affecting your work, social life, or sex life?
- Do you lose small amounts or do you soak your clothing or pad?
- Is it worse when you cough or sneeze?
- Do you have to rush to the bathroom to avoid and accident?
There are basically five kinds of incontinence:
1. Stress incontinence - this is the loss of small amounts of urine when you exert pressure on your abdomen and bladder-coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects. This happens because the muscle that keeps the bladder closed has weakened over time. In women, this is usually due to pregnancy and childbirth and in men it can happen if the prostate has been removed.
2. Urge incontinence - this is loss of larger amounts of urine with little or no warning. You have seen commercials for this kind of incontinence. This is also known as overactive bladder. This is often caused by infections, bladder irritants, or brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or strokes.
3. Overflow incontinence - this is a frequent dribble of small amounts of urine and the inability to completely empty the bladder. This is often due to diabetes and is more common in men due to prostate problems.
4. Mixed incontinence - this is combination of the above patterns.
5. Functional incontinence - this is incontinence due to something outside of the bladder. In older adults it is because of physical or mental impairments that prevent them getting to the bathroom in a timely manner. Continue reading