Urinary incontinence means a person leaks urine by accident caused by uncontrolled bladder or simply losing control of sudden urination. While it may happen to any ageing adults, urinary incontinence is more common in older people, especially women. As a person ages, their bladder changes as well which affects its normal function.
1 in 3 older women and 1 in 12 older men have lower urinary tract symptoms that can include urinary incontinence. On the other hand, 22% of men with urinary incontinence seek help for the problem as compared to 45% of women. With age, some of the muscle fibers in the bladder are replaced with stiffer tissue. Moreover, the body’s neurological responses that rely on to maintain normal urinary function decline slightly with old age.
On top of the normal changes of ageing, some age-associated conditions can also worsen incontinence, such as diabetes, obesity, congestive heart failure, medications that can affect urine output, and more. Incontinence is tantamount to inconvenience as it can be life-altering. It leads to early retirement or social withdrawal, depression, and loss of independent function.
People in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease often have problems with urinary incontinence. This can be a result of not realizing they need to urinate, forgetting to go to the bathroom, or not being able to find the toilet. Nighttime urination or nocturia is a urinary symptom that’s hard to ignore, or cope with especially that it interrupts sleep. It’s a common complaint in older adults and prevalent among those 70 years and older which is reported to be 69-93% in men and about 75% in women.
Other Causes of Urinary Incontinence in Older Adults:
Infection – when there’s a urinary tract infection in an older adult, it can cause burning, pain, confusion, and also urinary frequency and urgency, and often incontinence.
Constipation – when the bowel is full of stool, it can restrict the release of urine from the bladder, which causes a dribbling overflow pattern of wetting.
Medication – old age comes with inevitable health problems that result to taking maintenance pills that can affect urinary function such as diuretics, antidepressants, and allergy medications.
Restricted mobility – not getting to the bathroom on time because of arthritis, for example, leads to more accidents.
Younger adults can also experience incontinence
Although it tends to be more common in older people, urinary incontinence can, however, strike at any age. Some younger adults with ages between 25 to 35 years old, as well as teenagers, also suffer from bladder leaks. A study of healthy adolescents indicated that 3% of 15 to 16-year-olds experienced regular daytime wetting. Causes of urinary incontinence in young adults vary widely but the most common include urinary tract infection, weak pelvic muscles, side effect from medication, and sport injury resulting from high-impact sports such as running and gymnastic, where you hit the ground with force. This can result in damage to the pelvic muscles over a period of time.
Other risk factors also include conditions such as obesity (more pressure on the bladder), cystic fibrosis, chronic constipation (also causing more pressure on the bladder) and childhood nocturnal enuresis that occasionally carries over to the teenage years.
Incontinence is inconvenient yet manageable
Incontinence has an enormous impact on an older person’s quality of life and adds significant burden on family and caregiver. Fortunately, there are more treatments nowadays for urinary incontinence than ever before.
The first step is to talk to the doctor for proper health diagnosis. The choice of treatment depends on the type of bladder control problem, how serious it is, and what best fits the lifestyle. To primarily help manage urinary incontinence in older adults at home, here are some things to do:
Even after treatment, some people still leak urine from time to time, especially those with underlying health conditions. There are incontinence products available including adult diapers, adult pull-up pants, adult underwear, and underpads, that may make leaking urine a little less bothering.
One that’s readily available in drugstore and supermarkets is the Caress Adult Diaper Basic. It’s great for older adults as it has a super absorbent pad with Liquid Distribution Layer (LDL) that draws the liquid away from the skin keeping them feeling dry and comfortable. There’s also Secure Adult Pull-up Pants that’s convenient to use when going out since it can be easily worn like underwear. Hy-Pants Adult Underwear is like Secure but is recommended for those with light and moderate incontinence.
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