Millions of older people suffer from incontinence, a problem that can severely impair their quality of life. There are many factors that can contribute to this problem, and it is important to understand them all if you or someone you know is struggling with incontinence. Although it may be difficult, learning more about incontinence can help an elderly person to take steps to improve this issue. In this article, we will take a look at some of the common causes of incontinence in older people.
Weak Bladder Muscles
One of the most common causes of incontinence is weak bladder muscles. Aging slows nerve function and muscle movement, including those in the bladder. Over time this can cause the muscles to become less elastic or “weaker.” When a person gets older, it simply takes longer for their body to send a signal that they need to urinate, and they become unable to hold their bladder until they get the signal. This loss of muscle control is called detrusor instability, and it can lead to incontinence with both urine and stool.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections are common in older people, partly because they often have a less efficient immune system. This means that a UTI, which can arise from bacteria in the digestive tract or elsewhere in the body that finds its way into the urinary tract, will be able to establish itself more easily and potentially cause incontinence as it spreads. In addition to incontinence, these infections are also known to cause pain around the bladder, pain when urinating, and increased frequency in urination.
As people age, their brains deteriorate in many ways that are not yet fully understood. This deterioration can be severe enough to the point where the person is diagnosed with dementia. Dementia is most typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease, which primarily affects memory and thinking skills in older people. However, many other forms of dementia exist, most of which involve some degree of mental confusion or disorientation. This confusion can make it difficult for a person to recognize the need to use the bathroom or remember where it is and can lead to incontinence.
Loss Of Mobility
As people age, they become less mobile and more likely to develop chronic health conditions such as arthritis. Arthritis makes it more challenging to walk, stand up from a chair, or even go for a short walk. Losing the ability to move around freely can make it challenging to get to the bathroom when needed, especially if it is not close by. Over time, this lack of mobility can lead to incontinence due to a loss of bladder control.
Many medications can cause incontinence, including over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications, and herbal remedies. Diuretics are often prescribed to older people with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems. These drugs, which mean “water pill,” increase urine output because they result in the loss of more water than average through urination. Many people take diuretics every day, but the sudden increase in urine output can result in incontinence if they do not properly compensate for it with their diets and hydration levels.
As people age, their hormone levels change. This can have a significant impact on bladder control and incontinence because it impacts bladder muscles. In women, hormonal changes during menopause may cause incontinence as the pelvic muscles weaken and vaginal walls thin out. Men also experience hormonal changes associated with aging that can affect the prostate gland, which can cause loss of bladder control and incontinence.
People who are chronically ill often experience incontinence, although the type of incontinence can vary widely depending on their specific condition. For example, diabetes is known to cause nerve damage that results in urinary retention, while some types of cancer can obstruct the ureters and bladder. Muscle wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy can also cause incontinence among older people. So depending on the illness, they are diagnosed with it’s good to ask your doctor if incontinence is a symptom of the disease.
Enlarged Prostate Gland
The prostate gland surrounds the urethra of males and is involved with ejaculation. As men age, they may be more likely to develop benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which causes an enlargement of the prostate gland and can obstruct the urethra, and contribute to urine retention and incontinence. Symptoms of BPH include a weak urine stream and a feeling that the bladder is never fully empty. This can also cause incontinence by straining the bladder muscles and making them more likely to spasm, which can lead to a loss of bladder control.
Neurological disorders can impact any part of the nervous system, including those that control bladder muscles. When this happens, people may experience changes in their bladder habits and become incontinent. These types of disorders can affect how severe it is and what types of incontinence occur. One common condition associated with urinary incontinence is spinal cord injury, which can damage the nerves that control bladder function.
Urge incontinence, also known as overactive bladder, occurs when people feel an urgent need to urinate and cannot make it to the bathroom in time. With urge incontinence, the bladder muscles contract and force urine out without warning. This type of incontinence is common among older people who have weakened bladder muscles because it can occur with a sudden burst of pressure that cannot be controlled in time to prevent leakage.
Incontinence in older people can be caused by various factors, from medications to neurological disorders. While incontinence is more common among the elderly, it is not a normal part of aging, and people should talk with their doctor if they experience any form of incontinence. Many treatment options are available that can significantly reduce or even eliminate incontinence. So if you or someone you love is dealing with this issue, just know that it is not something they just have to live with!