Taking Care of an Elderly Woman with Bladder Control Problems

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Urine leakage is a common problem for women of all ages, but more women tend to experience the problem as they age. But urine leakage doesn't have to be an unavoidable part of a woman's life. Bladder control problems can be treated.

Who is Likely to Have Bladder Control Problems?

About half of adult women say they have had urine leakage at one time or another. Many women say the problem occurs daily. Often women leak urine when they are pregnant or after they have given birth.

Women who have stopped having their periods—menopause—often report bladder control problems. Many women leak urine when they exercise, laugh hard, cough, or sneeze.

What Causes Bladder Control Problems in Women?

Urine leakage has many possible causes. The most common reasons are listed below.

  • Weak Muscles
    Most bladder control problems are caused by weak pelvic muscles—the muscles that hold the bladder in place. These muscles may become stretched and weak during pregnancy and childbirth. The sphincters—muscles that keep the bladder closed until you urinate—may also be weakened.
  • Nerve Damage
    Damaged nerves may send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, causing the bladder to push out urine without warning. Or damaged nerves send no signals at all, so the brain can't tell when the bladder is full. Trauma or diseases such as diabetes can cause nerve damage.
  • Medicines, Alcohol and Caffeine
    Leaking can happen when medicines or alcohol affect the nerves or muscles. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee or cola cause the bladder to fill quickly, which may cause the bladder to leak.
  • Infection
    A urinary tract infection can irritate bladder nerves and cause the bladder to squeeze without warning.
  • Excess weight
    Being overweight can put pressure on the bladder and contribute to leakage.

Just changing some daily habits may help. If you tend to leak urine at certain times of the day, you can make trips to the bathroom ahead of time to avoid an accident. If you notice that certain foods and drinks cause you to urinate more often, try avoiding them.

Don't be embarrassed to talk with your doctor about intcontinence. Your doctor may prescribe a medicine that can calm muscles and nerves to treat an overactive bladder. If your leakage is caused by weak muscles, your doctor or nurse can help you learn to do exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles. Or your doctor may fit you with a device worn in the vagina that helps lift the bladder. If other treatments fail, your doctor may suggest surgery to improve bladder control.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. NIH annually invests over $28 billion in medical research.

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2 Comments

Wow, dealing with this with my loved one now. Although has normal pressure hydrocephalus as well. Which also causing urinary incontinence, and memory loss. Thank you for pointing this out as Mom's on Zocor.