As people age, the body starts to become more and more fragile in a variety of ways. Joints and muscles become stiff, bones become more brittle, and the risk for heart disease, diabetes and dementia becomes more apparent. One common condition that is all too familiar for individuals over 55 is bladder control, however. Issues with bladder control and the urologic system are extremely common for seniors, not just because of their age, but because of their high risk for underlying medical conditions.
Regardless of the condition, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and to schedule an appointment with a urologist once signs arise. Early intervention is key to the successful treatment of many urologic conditions, and there are plenty of effective treatment options out there to choose from.
What Happens to the Bladder with Age?
Many studies have shown that lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) increase with age, but they don’t usually explain why or how. A study published in Reviews in Urology demonstrated that increased age was directly related to reduced bladder capacity, decreased urinary flow rate, diminished urethral pressure, and deterioration of muscle function and bladder wall.
This study shows that urologic conditions in seniors may occur due to natural, physiologic changes that are simply a part of aging. However, they may also be influenced by unrelated health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or mobility issues. Here are the most common urologic conditions seniors face:
Overactive Bladder (OAB) is a very common condition in both men and women. In fact, up to 27 percent of men and 43 percent of women will struggle with OAB at some point in their lives. While it may seem like a harmless condition, OAB often leaves people feeling isolated, anxious, and even depressed. The constant urge to urinate and need to be near a restroom can make patients feel afraid to leave their homes or ride in a car for long periods of time. However, with the help of a urologist, OAB is very treatable and often a curable condition.
The symptoms of OAB may include the following:
- Frequent, sudden urges to urinate
- Urge incontinence
- Nocturia, or the need to make constant bathroom trips in the night
- Urinating more than eight times in a 24-hour period
The exact cause is unknown, but OAB is thought to stem from a malfunction in the bladder, as a result of miscommunication between the bladder muscles and the brain. Any activity or condition that can weaken the bladder muscles may contribute to OAB. Some common causes include:
- Bladder stones or tumors
- Neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis
- An enlarged prostate
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Muscle weakness from old age
Treatment for OAB may vary from patient to patient. Your urologist may suggest behavioral changes, medication, or even surgical options. For mild cases of OAB, Kegel exercises, losing weight, and bladder training may be enough to treat OAB. In more serious cases, medication for OAB or nerve stimulation surgery may be the best treatment.
Enlarged Prostate (BPH)
Many men over the age of 40 will experience an Enlarged Prostate (BPH) at some point in their lives. 70 percent of men over 60 and 90 percent of men over 80 will have some sort of BPH, according to studies. As men age, the prostate gland gradually and naturally starts to enlarge, which is not by itself a cause for concern.
Symptoms of BPH are often caused as a result of the urethra being blocked by the prostate. These symptoms can include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Stopping and starting during urination
- A weak stream
- Dribbling when finishing
- Sudden urges to urinate
There are many lifestyle factors and pre-existing medical conditions that can put you at a higher risk for BPH. Causes for BPH can include the following:
- Family history
- Bladder infection or cancer
- Neurological disorders
Treatment for BPH often varies due to the age, health, prostate size, and severity of the condition. For minor cases, patients are often given prescription medications, like alpha blockers or alpha-reductase inhibitors. For more severe cases, minimally invasive surgical options are suggested.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are infections of the upper or lower urinary tract. UTIs are usually the result of bacteria being introduced to the urethra. While both men and women can experience UTIs, they are much more common in women for several reasons. Women’s shortened urethras increase their exposure to bacteria, which can be found in certain types of birth control or by wiping back to front. Additionally, the low estrogen levels brought on by menopause can cause an influx of UTIs.
Symptoms of a UTI can vary and may be different for men and women. Common symptoms include:
- Frequent, sudden urges to urinate
- Burning during urination
- Dark or cloudy urine
- Back or pelvic pain in women
UTIs are typically treated with an antibiotic that will rid the body of the bacteria. However, if someone experiences frequent UTIs, it can be the sign of a larger health problem that may require a different course of treatment.
Attend Our Senior Health Seminars
Bladder control can be an uncomfortable subject for many people. The something urologists at Advanced Urology host several free seminars each month to provide a relaxing, judgment-free environment for patients to discuss their conditions openly. Each seminar features one of our expert urologists to educate seniors and answer any questions they may have. Visit us on Facebook to find out about our upcoming seminars today!