Incontinence Risk Factors
Urinary incontinence occurs when the urinary system can't properly control the storage of urine in the bladder and its periodic release. An adult who becomes incontinent will involuntarily release urine before finding a toilet, and sometimes even before knowing the bladder is emptying.
Why the Elderly Are More Likely to Become Incontinent
Advancing age is the highest risk factor for incontinence, but that doesn't mean that the disorder is an unavoidable consequence of growing old. There are various treatment options, depending on the cause and type of incontinence. But first let's look at the reasons the elderly are more prone to incontinence.
- Normal physiological changes in the urinary system with age can make the urinary tract less responsive. For instance, the bladder can lose some elasticity, which means that it holds less and the individual must urinate more frequently.
- The various muscles that control the contraction of the bladder and the opening and closing of the urethra can weaken with age, causing the system to malfunction.
- Certain age-related medical conditions, such as prostate enlargement in men and estrogen loss in women can result in incontinence. Multiple childbirth can also lead to a weakening of the pelvic muscles, a condition that's aggravated as a woman grows older.
- Older people are more likely to experience a range of ailments that require prescription medication that can lead to incontinence.
- The elderly are less mobile, and therefore less able to get to a bathroom quickly enough to answer the urge to urinate. Physical impairments can also create more challenges for older people.
- Other age-related mental conditions such as senility and Alzheimer's disease affect incontinence.
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Last Reviewed: May 14, 2007