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April 11, 2018

What Older Adults Should Know About Bladder Health

We all use our bladders several times a day, and for most of us, we usually don’t think about it. However, for those with bladder control problems like urinary incontinence, using the bathroom can be upsetting.

Bladder issues become more common as we age thanks to changes in the bladder tissue. The usual elastic tissue of this hollow organ may become less stretchy and tough with age, and the bladder walls and pelvic floor muscles may also become weaker. These changes can cause problems with bladder emptying and leaking urine.

Common Bladder Problems for Older Adults

Though bladder problems are a common occurrence for older adults, that doesn’t mean they’re not disruptive to daily life activities. Common bladder problems can include:

Urinary tract infections (UTIs): These infections are very common and happen when bacteria get into the urinary tract — anywhere from your bladder up to your kidneys. Those weakened bladder muscles that happen with age can cause urine to stay in the bladder despite having been emptied, which can make it easier for bacteria to grow. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection can include pain or burning when urinating, a frequent need to urinate even though very little urine is released.

Lower urinary tract symptoms: These can include anything from overactive bladder, loss of bladder control, urinary incontinence and frequent need to urinate. Often, these issues are caused by problems with the bladder, pelvic floor muscles or urethra.

Bladder cancer: The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in urine and it is more common in smokers.

Signs of Bladder Problems

If you experience any of these signs of bladder problems, talk with your doctor:

  • Urinary incontinence: the inability to hold urine or frequently leaking urine
  • If you need to urinate more than eight times per day or wake up several times per night to urinate
  • If you experience the sudden and urgent need to urinate
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Pain or burning before or after urinating
  • Trouble emptying your bladder or having a weak stream of urine

Ways to Keep Your Bladder Healthy

While some things that affect bladder problems are out of our control—like age or previous pelvic injury—there are things you can do to keep your bladder healthy:

  • Drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day. If you drink other liquids as well throughout the day, try to make at least half of your fluid intake water.
  • Don’t smoke and if you drink alcohol or caffeine, limit your consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly, which can help with constipation — another cause of bladder problems
  • Don’t hold your urine when you have to go to the bathroom, and when you do go, try to be as relaxed as possible.

Bladder problems don’t have to be an embarrassing, life altering issue. If you’re experiencing any of the problems mentioned above or have questions about your bladder health, talk with your doctor.

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