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Incontinence

12 November 2018

50% of older women suffer incontinence in silence - US study

A staggering number of older women suffer from incontinence and many won't admit it to their doctor.

Nearly half of older American women have urinary incontinence, but many have not talked to a doctor about it, a new national poll shows.

More than 1 000 women, aged 50 to 80, were asked questions about their bladder control. The poll found that 43% of those in their 50s and 60s had urinary incontinence. That percentage jumped to 51% among those over 65.

But two-thirds of those women had not discussed the problem with a doctor, and only 38% said they do exercises to strengthen muscles that can help keep urine from leaking.

Common condition

"Urinary incontinence is a common condition that may not be routinely screened for in primary care, yet it can impact a woman's quality of life and health, and is usually treatable," said Dr Carolyn Swenson, a urogynaecologist with the University of Michigan. She helped develop the poll questions and analyse the findings.

Of the women who said they'd experienced urine leakage, 415 said it was a major problem or somewhat of a problem. One-third of those with leakage said it occurred almost every day.

Most found ways of coping on their own, according to the poll – from using pads or special underwear to wearing dark clothing and limiting fluid intake.

But nearly half worried it would get worse as they got older.

Don't ignore the symptoms

"It's not an inevitable part of ageing and shouldn't be overlooked," Dr Swenson noted in a university news release.

The most common triggers of urine leakage were coughing or sneezing (79%), trying to get to a bathroom in time (64%), laughing (49%) and exercise (37%).

The poll, published on 1 November 2018, was conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine, the university's medical centre.

"The last thing that older women should be doing is avoiding exercise or not being able to enjoy other activities that make life worthwhile," said poll director Dr Preeti Malani, a professor of internal medicine at Michigan with special training in geriatric medicine.

"We hope these findings will help spur conversations between women and their healthcare providers, so that activities aren't limited," Dr Malani added.

Image credit: iStock 

 

Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr 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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