Primary care doctors should consider asking all older female patients about urinary incontinence, according to a new report.
The University of Michigan’s National Poll of Healthy Aging found the issue had affected 43% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 51% of those aged between 65 and 80 at least once in the past year.
Despite it being a widespread problem, just one in three of these women said they have spoken to their doctor about it.
“There are few medical conditions as common as urinary incontinence, for which routine screening does not already exist.”
“Primary care providers are the most likely to encounter patients with urinary incontinence and should consider asking all women about this condition,” said the report.
Authors of the report, Urinary Incontinence: An Inevitable Part of Aging?, asked what prevented women from seeking medical attention.
Two out of three (66%) say it is because they didn’t think the problem was that bad, 23% because they have other things to discuss. Another 4% said they didn’t think their doctor could help.
Another 15% of women say they didn’t discuss it because the doctor did not bring it up, and 10% said they were not comfortable discussing urinary leakage. Just over half (53%) said they found it easier to talk to a female physician about the issue.
Instead of seeking medical attention, the majority of women choose to self-manage. More than half (59%) say they use pads or protective garments and 38% do pelvic floor exercises.
The poll also found that 16% of women who experience urinary incontinence limited their fluid intake and 15% modified their wardrobe to hide accidents.
Many women self-managing urinary incontinence
“Our results suggest that most women self-manage symptoms and nearly half of women with urinary incontinence fail to seek medical treatment because they prioritize other medical issues, or they don’t consider urinary incontinence to be a real health problem,” says the report, which is based on a poll of around 2,000 women aged 50 to 80 taken in March 2018.
Many women simply accepted urinary leakage as part of life; therefore, it was important to ensure they were aware of interventions.
“While aging may be a factor, urinary incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging,” says the report, which highlighted the negative effects on both physical and psychological health.
“Any urine leakage can diminish quality of life and incontinence that prevents women from participating in health-promoting behaviors, such as exercise, can have a negative impact on overall health.”
Among poll respondents, urinary leakage is associated with poorer self-rated health and is more common among women with other health conditions. These included diabetes, pulmonary problems, multiple sclerosis and sleep disorders.
Says the report: “It is important for women to know that urinary incontinence is common and treatable. There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options for urinary incontinence.”
“Treating incontinence can not only improve a woman’s quality of life, but can also have a positive impact on her overall health.”
Authors encourage all women with urinary incontinence to talk to their doctor, who can, if necessary, refer them to a specialist such as a urogynecologist or urologist.
To read the full report, click here.