Urinary Incontinence in Older Adults

If you suffer from incontinence, rest assured that you do not suffer alone. Approximately 26 million Americans suffer from incontinence. The vast majority of them are women, about 18 million. Unfortunately, many people suffer in silence because incontinence can be a difficult or embarrassing topic to discuss with family, friends, or one's healthcare provider. However, it is important to discuss your incontinence with your doctor because, more than ever, there are treatments and products available to help you maintain your incontinence and live life to the fullest.

Urinary incontinence means a person leaks urine by accident. While it may happen to anyone, urinary incontinence is more common in older people, especially women.

What causes bladder control problems? The bladder stores urine and during urination, muscles in the bladder tighten to move urine into a tube called the urethra. Simultaneously, the muscles around the urethra relax and let the urine pass from the body. When the muscles in and around the bladder don’t work properly, urine can leak. Incontinence typically occurs if the muscles relax without warning.

What Causes Incontinence?

Incontinence can happen for many reasons. For example, urinary tract infections, vaginal infection or irritation, and constipation can cause incontinence. Some causes of incontinence can include:

  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Overactive bladder muscles
  • Blockage from an enlarged prostate in men
  • Damage to the nerves that control the bladder, caused by diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson's disease
  • Diseases such as arthritis may make it difficult to get to the bath­room in time
  • Pelvic organ prolapse, which is a condition where the pelvic organs (such as the bladder, rectum, or uterus) shift out of their normal place into the vagina. When pelvic organs are out of place, the bladder and urethra are not able to work normally, which can cause urine to leak

Most incontinence in men is related to the prostate gland. Male incontinence may be caused by:

  • Prostatitis—a painful inflammation of the prostate gland
  • An enlarged prostate gland
  • Injury, or damage to nerves or muscles from surgery

Treating Incontinence

If you are experiencing incontinence, the first step you need to take is to see a doctor. Your doctor will give you a physical exam and review your medical history. He or she may ask about the symptoms you have experienced related to incontinence and what medicines you currently take. The doctor may ask if you have been sick recently or had surgery. There are a couple of tests that your doctor may also order to get more information about your condition:

  • Urine and blood tests
  • Tests that measure how well you empty your bladder

In addition, your doctor may ask you to keep a daily diary of when you urinate and when you leak urine. Your doctor may also refer you to a urologist, a doctor who specializes in urinary tract problems.

Products to Help You Deal with Incontinence

There are many products to help both men and women manage urinary incontinence. Some of the most common products include:

  • Absorbent pads/liners are disposable and designed for both women and men. Adhesive strips hold them inside your underwear. They trap 8 or more ounces of urine and keep it away from your skin. They also block odor and can be easily changed throughout the day.
  • Adult diapers/briefs have tape tab closures on the sides so they are adjustable and can be easily removed during diaper changes. They come in a range of colors as well as day and overnight versions.
  • Disposable underwear (pull-up, pull-on style) come in lots of styles. Some look similar to elastic-banded underwear but are designed to be disposable.
  • Protective underpads are disposable or reusable flat pads with an absorbent layer on one side and a moisture barrier on the other. They protect mattresses, chairs, or other furniture from urine leaks.

Need help selecting the right incontinence products for your needs? Call Rely Medical Supply today toll-free at 1-888-529-2308. Our phones are answered from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Central Standard Time. Our helpful and compassionate product experts are trained to help you select the right products for your personal needs.