Urinary incontinence is a
common problem in older adults.
There are three major
types of incontinence: urge, stress, and overflow.
The health care provider
will conduct a physical examination and tests, and discuss
strategies for management.
Management may involve
conservative treatment, medications, surgery, and/or incontinence
Incontinence can usually
be successfully treated.
- Urinary incontinence – the involuntary
loss of urine – is a common problem among older adults.
- One in three women and one in six men, over
the age of 65, living in the community suffer from this problem.
- Urinary incontinence is not a normal part of
aging. Many seniors are embarrassed to talk about it, and some
believe that nothing can be done.
- However, urinary incontinence can be assessed
and managed successfully.
body absorbs liquids you drink into the bloodstream through the
stomach and gut. Any extra liquids and other waste products are
cleared from the blood by the kidneys in the form of urine.
The urine flows from the
kidneys through tubes called ureters, and is stored in a sac called
the urinary bladder.
When you are ready to pass
urine, the sphincter at the bottom of the bladder relaxes and allows
the urine to pass down a tube called the urethra so it can be
expelled from the body.
There are three main types of incontinence.
- Urge Incontinence: This is the most
common type of incontinence. Older people with urge incontinence
- leak urine when they cannot get to the
bathroom quickly enough
- urinate very often, both day and night
- leak large amounts of urine and wet their
- Stress Incontinence: This is the loss
of urine with certain activities. People with stress incontinence
may leak urine when they sneeze, cough, laugh, or exercise. Leakage
usually happens in small amounts and occurs during the day.
- Overflow Incontinence: People with
overflow incontinence cannot empty their bladders completely. They
- lose small amounts of urine day or night
- often feel they have to empty the bladder,
- pass only small amounts of urine despite
may be temporarily caused by:
- urinary tract and vaginal infections
- some medications
- high blood glucose (sugar) levels
- stones in the bladder
- immobility (not being able to move around)
Management of urinary incontinence requires a
- The first step is to tell the health
care provider (e.g., family doctor, public health nurse, homecare
nurse) about the problem with incontinence.
- The second step is to find out the
cause of the incontinence. This usually requires a history and a
physical examination. Even though the older person may be
embarrassed to describe the pattern of the incontinence, these
details can help to pinpoint the cause. Also make sure the doctor or
nurse know of all the medications taken. A vaginal or a rectal
examination may be part of the physical examination. Also, certain
tests may be done (e.g., blood and urine tests, bladder scans,
- The third step is to treat the type
and cause of the incontinence. This may be done by conservative
treatment, medications, surgery, and/or the use of incontinence
people can do these techniques themselves:
- Empty the bladder regularly, every two to
- Drink 6 to 8 cups of liquids daily. Decrease
intake of liquids after supper.
- Avoid alcohol. Reduce the total amount of
coffee and tea. Do not drink these after supper or close to bedtime.
- Exercise pelvic floor muscles regularly by
most common types of medicine are those to:
- Treat infection.
- Replace hormones.
- Stop abnormal bladder contractions.
- Tighten the sphincter muscle.
is sometimes needed to help treat
certain causes of incontinence:
- Removal of tissue that is causing a blockage
- Return of bladder to its proper position for
women with stress incontinence.
- Dilate (expand) the urethra if it is
: Many types of
incontinence products are available. These include different types of
diapers, soaker pads, special underwear, male and female urinals, and
different types of catheters.
The Canadian Continence Foundation
- Seniors and
Aging - Bladder Control Problems (Incontinence) provides lots of
information about the topic.
Website: The Foundation was formed in 1986 to address
the needs of consumers experiencing urinary incontinence.
about Incontinence: This comprehensive site provides
information, downloadable documents and videos for purchase.
- Eldercare at Home is a resource for
families and friends who are caring for older people at home.
Chapter 10 – Incontinence provides detailed information.
- The Mayo Clinic's Diseases and Conditions
Urinary Incontinence also provides a
comprehensive article about incontinence.
- Urology Channel provides a featured video,
Overactive Bladder: How To Take Back Control.
- The Merck Source website provides links to
more detailed information about urinary incontinence.