Updated 30 September 2015

Over half of seniors are affected by incontinence

A recent report by the U.S Centres for Disease Control has indicated that over 50% of seniors suffer from incontinence.


More than 50 percent of older Americans struggle with incontinence, a government report released by the U.S government states.

"We found that half the population experienced urinary leakage or accidental bowel leakage, and about 25 percent had moderate, severe or very severe urinary leakage. And about 8 percent had moderate, severe or very severe bowel leakage," said lead researcher Yelena Gorina, a statistician at the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's National Centre for Health Statistics.

One expert noted that the impact of incontinence is significant.

"Bladder and bowel incontinence is a highly prevalent disease that has emotional, health, social and economic impacts in the daily life of our elderly population in the U.S.," said Dr. Farzeen Firoozi, a urologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.

Incontinence occurs when muscles are too weak or too active. If the muscles are weak, patients may have accidents. If muscles become too active, there may be a strong urge to go to the bathroom. There are other causes of incontinence, such as prostate problems and nerve damage.

Read: What is incontinence?

Treatment depends on the type of problem and may include simple exercises, medicines, special devices or procedures or surgery.

Dr. Tomas Griebling, a professor of urology at the University of Kansas and a spokesman for the American Urology Association, said incontinence increases with age.

However, "incontinence should really not be considered either a normal or inevitable part of aging," he added.

Griebling noted that although the percentage of adults with incontinence has remained the same, as the population ages there will be more people with the problem.

According to the report, nearly 51 percent of people aged 65 and older living at home reported bladder and/or bowel incontinence. Bladder incontinence was reported by just under 44 percent and bowel incontinence by just over 17 percent.

Read: Faecal incontinence affects 1 in 5 women

Women twice as likely to suffer from bladder incontinence

About 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men said they suffered from bladder incontinence. White women were almost twice as likely to have bladder incontinence compared with black women, the researchers noted.

For people getting home health care, there was no significant difference in rates of incontinence by age, race and education. No matter where a patient lived, 45 percent of those getting home health care reported having difficulty with bladder and/or bowel control.

Women getting home health care were 1.7 times more likely to have bladder incontinence compared with men, the investigators found.

The CDC notes that there is a significant cost linked with incontinence. For example, in 2010, the average cost for bowel incontinence was estimated at $4,100 (An estimated R55 755) per person.

Read more:

Caffeine linked to leaky bladder in men

Is your pregnancy causing bladder incontinence?

Urinary incontinence in menopause

Image: Older woman from Shutterstock

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Incontinence Expert

Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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