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Controlling Your Bladder in Older Years

About one in five seniors experience some type of problem when controlling their bladder, which results in an involuntary release of urine. This is also known as urinary incontinence, a condition that is not considered a disease, but can have devastating effects on the lives of those who have it. It can cause public embarrassment which will limit sociability, hurt self-esteem, or cause stress which leads to other health problems. However, there are numerous ways that can help towards restoring one’s quality of life when faced with urinary incontinence.

Controlling Bladder in Older Years

Types of Urinary Control Problems

Stress Incontinence: This is the involuntary release of tiny amounts of urine when there is increased pressure on the bladder, caused by actions such as sneezing, laughing, coughing, etc. This type affects around thirty-five percent of seniors with bladder problems, and is more common in women who have had childbirth, because childbirth causes the relaxation of the pelvic muscles. In men, it is more common in those who have undergone prostate surgery.

Urge Incontinence: This is the release of large amounts of urine when an individual is not able to get to a toilet after getting an urge to urinate. This type is responsible for around seventy percent of bladder control problems in older people.

Overflow Incontinence: This occurs when there is an obstruction blocking the entrance of the bladder, which causes it to overfill. Typically, there is no feeling that the bladder is full, until it contracts, the time at which urine is released. This accounts for around twenty five percent of bladder problems.

Functional Incontinence: This condition accounts for 25 percent of urinary problems, and usually happens when an individual has problems moving from place to place. Examples include having poor vision, hearing or speech problems that interferes with an individual accessing a toilet or asking for aid from a caregiver.

Causes of Bladder Problems

There are numerous factors that can cause incontinence, some including weakened pelvic muscles, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes, muscular diseases, stroke, or injuries. A common misconception is that this is a condition that is caused by aging, which is false. As well, certain over-the-counter medication can also contribute to bladder problems. For example, diuretics (water pills) are a large contributor to sudden incontinence, and blood pressure medication reduces contractions in the bladder as well. The sudden reduced number of contractions causes urine to store up in the bladder which leads to overflow incontinence.

One’s diet also greatly affects incontinence. Drinks such as alcohol can alter memory, affect mobility and cause an increased output of urine. Sugary substances tend to irritate the bladder, while caffeine, a common substance found in coffees and teas, causes the body to shed more water than usual.

Treating Incontinence

Varying types of incontinences require different types of treatment, and is also affected by how old you are, your medical background, and the type of treatment you choose.

Firstly, you should have your situation evaluated by your doctor, or any medical professional. Typically, you will be asked to complete some physical and mental examinations, as well as an assessment of your daily surroundings. Some doctors will ask you to keep a record of your urinary actions daily, such as the times you use the toilet, any accidents with their reasons if possible, as well as the types of fluids you drink. These patterns will help to determine what treatment will suit you to the best of your needs.

Some “conservative” treatments include:

  • Strengthening your pelvic muscles by doing Kegel exercises
  • Changing your diet and limiting sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and any caffeine in the substances you consume. Increasing consumption of water daily, and keeping a high fibre diet is very important in keeping your bladder healthy
  • Wearing easy to remove clothing
  • Changing your home environment to ensure easy access to the toilet when needed

Some “less conservative” treatments include:

  • Bladder suspension
  • Surgery
  • Artificial sphincters
  • Collagen injections

If you find that you have daily leakages of urine, or any signs of bladder problems, it is best to consult your doctor immediately, as there are many treatment options available to you, and in most cases, they are easy to cure.


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