Bladder Control in Senior Women and Men
Poor Bladder Control in Senior Adults
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, more than half of America's senior population struggle with bladder control problems. Some people experience occasional urinary leakage, while others suffer from severe incontinence. The effects on senior health are significant.
Poor bladder control has physical, emotional and social impacts in the daily lives of elderly adults. It also has major economic costs according to the CDC. In 2000, urinary incontinence had an estimated cost of $19.5 billion. In 2010, the estimated cost was $4,100 per person.
Types of Incontinence
- There are four different types of urinary incontinence: stress, urge, overflow and functional. Senior adults can experience these types alone or in combination.
- Stress incontinence is an involuntary response to pressure on the bladder such as during a cough or sneeze. It is common in women who have given birth and men who have had prostate surgery.
- Urge incontinence occurs when someone is unable to reach a bathroom before leakage occurs. This embarrassing problem accounts for more than 60 percent of incontinence in seniors.
- Overflow incontinence happens when a bladder obstruction causes the bladder to overfill. Unfortunately, many people feel no sensation when this occurs.
- Functional incontinence happens when someone has trouble moving from one place to another. It occurs when poor vision, hearing or speech interferes with the ability to reach a bathroom.
What Causes Incontinence?
Poor bladder control can happen for many reasons. Urinary tract infections, vaginal infections in women, constipation and certain medications can cause occasional urinary leakage. Long-term incontinence is often due to weak or overactive bladder muscles, prostate gland problems in men, arthritis, diabetes, stroke or injury. It also results from nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other conditions.
Treating Urinary Incontinence
There are more treatments for incontinence than ever before. The best options depend on the type of bladder control problem someone has, how serious it is and how it affects the person's lifestyle.
Bladder control training can be very effective for bladder management. Pelvic muscle exercises (Kegels), biofeedback and timed voiding are three common treatments. Seniors can also benefit from lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol or caffeine.
Bladder management may require other treatments in addition to bladder control training. Some medications help seniors empty their bladders more fully, while others tighten the muscles to reduce leakage. Vaginal estrogen reduces incontinence in some women, and treating an enlarged prostate helps men control their bladders. For severe incontinence, surgery can improve or cure the condition.