Urinary incontinence is commonly seen in the elderly. It has multiple complications and is often the reason an elderly person is forced to abandon independent living and enter a nursing home. There are multiple causes of urinary incontinence: it is not a single entity or a specific diagnosis. In most patients, the incontinence can be placed into 1 of the following 4 categories: detrusor overactivity (urge incontinence), overflow incontinence, stress incontinence (outlet incompetence) or functional incontinence. To understand the pathophysiology of urinary incontinence, some knowledge of the urinary tract anatomy and physiology is required. It is also important to know how the anatomy and physiology changes in response to the aging process. Successful treatment depends on the specific cause of the incontinence. If incorrectly diagnosed, various treatments may actually worsen the incontinence or cause other problems. Since most elderly patients do not volunteer a problem of urinary incontinence, questions regarding the presence of symptoms must be asked. In most patients, the specific type of incontinence can be diagnosed with a thorough medical history and physical examination. Several simple and widely available laboratory tests may also be useful in the evaluation. Occasionally, urological consultation or urodynamic testing should be performed. Once correctly diagnosed, there are a large number of pharmacological as well as nonpharmacological treatments (behavioural, surgical) available. This article concentrates on the pharmacological therapies for patients with various types of urinary incontinence. Since most patients with urinary incontinence are elderly, they are more susceptible to the effects as well as the adverse effects of medications. This must be taken into account before any pharmacological therapy is initiated. Although many elderly patients believe their symptoms of urinary incontinence to be a part of growing old, urinary incontinence is never a normal change of aging. With proper evaluation and treatment, the majority of patients with urinary incontinence can be helped or cured.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)