Learning to go to the bathroom is something we all do as children, often before we’re out of our diapers. So, as we get older, we tend to take this basic human function for granted and get on with our daily routines. Losing control over urinating can be both embarrassing and damaging to our social and personal life. But it is a reality for millions of people as they age.
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage or emptying of your bladder, and while many conditions can cause it in different age groups, it frequently affects older adults. But, is it part of the natural course of aging, or is it something we can control? Let’s figure this out by looking at what this form of incontinence is, how it affects older people, and what can be done to prevent and treat it.
If you live in the Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, or South Florida area and you’re struggling with urinary incontinence, Drs. Craig Herman and Steven Kester and the team of medical professionals at the Urology Center of Florida can help.
Understanding urinary incontinence
This condition compromises bladder control, leading to the lack of ability to hold urine without leaking or emptying the bladder. This form of incontinence can be temporary or chronic, depending on the cause, and numerous health conditions can be responsible for it. There are actually different types of urinary incontinence, such as:
- Stress: This happens when you stress parts of your body by sneezing, laughing, or coughing, which leads to the sphincter muscles slackening, releasing urine.
- Urge: This is the result of an overwhelming urge to urinate, causing you to lose control of your bladder, which may keep you from reaching the bathroom before you go.
- Overflow: Also called dribbling, this occurs when your bladder isn’t emptying correctly, leading to leakage after you think you’ve finished.
- Functional: This is when physical or mental impairments prevent you from making it in time to pee. Impairments can include dementia, arthritis, stroke, or spinal cord damage.
- Mixed: This means you’re dealing with more than one type of incontinence and is often a combination of stress and urge incontinence.
How it affects older people
Our urinary system changes with age in several ways. As we get older, some of the smooth muscles in the bladder become more fibrous, and the neurological responses our bodies use to regulate urinary function can decline. This can lead to more trips to the bathroom, getting up at least once during the night to urinate and dealing with a fuller sensation in your bladder than you did in your youth. This means that some changes in your urinary habits are likely normal, but it doesn’t mean incontinence is simply a part of aging.
Often, older people struggle with this condition due to a number of conditions and other factors, including dementia, delirium, infection, constipation, restricted mobility, and various medications. In older men, problems such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) can obstruct the urethra, making urination more difficult.
Prevention and treatment
Managing this problem will be based on its causes, along with changing medications that worsen incontinence and treating underlying conditions that can cause it. Exercise can help reduce the risk of dealing with the condition. Along with dietary changes and managing blood pressure, it can lower the chances of problems that increase the risk of incontinence.
Retraining the bladder can also help to regain control. Several medications can calm overactive bladders. Medical devices (nerve stimulators, catheters), procedures (Botox injections, radiofrequency therapy), and surgery can help if other methods for managing the condition fail.
The most important thing to do is tell your doctor you’re struggling with urinary incontinence. Only 22% of men with the condition report it versus 45% of women, and while we understand the embarrassment you feel, we can’t treat your problem if you don’t tell us you have it.
If you’re struggling to make it to the bathroom or dealing with leakage or other urinary problems, call or message the Urology Center of Florida today and make and appointment with Drs. Herman or Kester.