Is incontinence normal with age?
Dr. Jennifer Klauschie is an urogynecologist on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (623) 547-2600.
Question: I am experiencing some incontinence issues and would like to know if this is just a normal part of aging, or a sign that something else could be going on?
Answer: Urinary incontinence is, quite simply, the involuntary loss of bladder control, which results in the accidental leaking of urine or the inability to hold urine until you reach the restroom. Symptoms of an overactive bladder vary from minor and infrequent dribbling to a constant threat of wetting yourself. While both males and females are affected by incontinence, it occurs in women more frequently. Despite it being a sometimes embarrassing and inconvenient condition, it is also a rather common and treatable one.
There is a widely held belief that the loss of bladder control is just a natural part of aging. However, this is a misconception. The reality is that there are a variety of factors that can lead to temporary or more persistent incontinence. Determining the degree of incontinence you may be experiencing comes from identifying the root cause.
Temporary incontinence is caused by a wide range of factors, including caffeine, alcohol, over-hydrating, spicy and acidic foods, urinary tract infection, and certain medications. Further, several medical conditions, such as constipation and bladder irritation, can trigger temporary bouts of incontinence. Generally speaking, identifying and correcting the underlying cause will resolve the bladder control problems you may be experiencing.
Persistent urinary incontinence is frequently the result of physical changes or conditions, some of which include: pregnancy and child birth, weak pelvic tissues, changes in nerve and muscle function, obesity, blood vessel disease, prostate and bladder cancer, blockage in the urinary tract, and kidney disease, among others. When or if these conditions are properly addressed, then bladder control is often restored.
Incontinence may have altered your life, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to run or ruin it. In addition to addressing the underlying cause, there are a number of effective treatment options for easing or correcting an overactive bladder, ranging from simple behavioral therapy (such as bladder retraining) to surgery, depending on the cause and extent of bladder control loss.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of incontinence, contact your healthcare provider. He or she will help identify the root cause and design the best treatment plan for your needs.
Banner Health is hosting a series of Spirit of Women Pelvic Health lectures in November. For dates and times of events near you, visit www.bannerhealth.com/spiritofwomen or www.bannerhealth.com/230CARE.