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Incontinence in Women over 50:
What causes it?

Bladder weakness leading to incontinence is a common problem among women over 50. It is estimated that between 2.5 and 3 million women have experienced or are experiencing some form of bladder weakness, although there may be many more who are afraid to talk about it out of embarrassment or shame.


Urinary incontinence can have a severe physical and social impact on your life, leaving you afraid to go out in case you suffer a leak. Fears about smells and wet patches showing through clothing can be enough to stop you enjoying life and having fun with friends and family.


Urinary incontinence is common, but you do not have to suffer in silence. Incontinence is often treatable. There is plenty of help available, and taking the first step - asking for it - is the hardest part.


There are 5 types of urinary incontinence - which applies to you?


- stress - this is the most common, and is triggered by otherwise normal activities such as laughing, coughing or exercise


- urge - the sudden, urgent feeling of needing to pass urine, often caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection.


- overflow - the sufferer is unable to completely empty her bladder so dribbles urine constantly.


- mixed - combination of stress and urge, sometimes overflow too.


- gross total - most severe, and usually caused by a spinal cord injury or birth defect.


Urinary incontinence is common in women over 50 for several reasons:




This is one of the causes of stress incontinence, as it can stretch and weaken the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and the urethra. In many cases, the damage doesn't make itself known (in the form of incontinence) until several years after the birth, so you may have no idea that anything is wrong at first.


Decreasing oestrogen levels


Another reason for incontinence in women over 50 is lack of oestrogen. Oestrogen helps keep the tissues surrounding the bladder and urethra healthy, so these can decline when oestrogen levels fall during the menopause.


If you have had a hysterectomy, this can also weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to stress incontinence.


Urinary tract infections


If you have pain when passing urine, or often experience a sudden urge to go to the toilet, this could be an indicator of a UTI.


Weight gain


If you have started to put on weight as you get older, this could be a factor too. Extra weight can put more pressure on your bladder and weaken the muscles in and around it, causing a loss of sphincter control.


Getting help for incontinence


Of course, incontinence or bladder weakness could be an indicator of other, more serious issues, which is why it is important to consult a GP. He or she will be able to help you and offer you the advice and treatment that you need. If you are suffering from overflow incontinence, for example, this could indicate that you have a blockage in your bladder or urethra which is obstructing the flow of urine. Or if you find that you are drinking excessive amounts of water and are more tired than usual, this could indicate diabetes.


Sometimes surgical or medical treatment is needed, but in a lot of cases, just making small lifestyle changes can help. Drinking fewer caffeinated beverages can help urge incontinence as caffeine is a diuretic. Likewise, losing weight, drinking less water (6-8 glasses a day is recommended), and eating healthily have all been shown to ease symptoms.


Author Bio:

Article by Cairn Technology, who specialise in infection prevention and control in hospitals and care homes. They supply a range of continence care products and training to the healthcare sector.


Realated page:

Incontinence Supplies



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