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A Common but Treatable Condition: Bladder and Bowel Control in Older Adults

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

As we age, it’s natural for our bodies to undergo changes. One such change that many people over the age of 65 experience is a loss of bladder and bowel control. It’s a sensitive topic that many may feel uncomfortable discussing, but it’s important to know that it’s a common condition that can be treated. In this blog post, we’ll explore just how common it is for older adults to experience bladder and bowel control issues, its causes, and what treatment options are available.

Bladder and bowel control issues, also known as incontinence, affects a significant percentage of individuals, particularly in the senior citizen community. Approximately 25 million Americans suffer from this condition, and it’s prevalent in both men and women over the age of 65. Several factors can contribute to the occurrence of incontinence, including weakened pelvic muscles, enlarged prostate, bladder infections, or nerve damage from conditions like diabetes or stroke.

Incontinence can adversely affect a person's mental health, leading to anxiety or depression. This can cause individuals to become socially isolated and withdraw from activities they once enjoyed. In addition, loss of bladder or bowel control can also result in skin irritation, infections, and an overall reduced quality of life. However, with treatment, many people can successfully manage and gradually overcome the condition.

If you or a loved one are experiencing incontinence, there are various treatment options available. First, it’s crucial to schedule a visit with your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

Northeast Missouri Health Council's newest physician, Dr. Craig McCoy, D.O., OB/Gyn Specialty Group, is a skilled pelvic surgeon, and has achieved status as a physician proctor for robotic surgical systems. In addition to OB/GYN, Dr. McCoy is board certified in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. Dr. McCoy specializes in the treatment of female bladder and bowel control problems. When you consider women of all ages, 1 in 6 have overactive bladder. Not only is it common, but it becomes more common as you age. By the age of 65, 1 in 3 women are suffering from overactive bladder. In fact, more people have overactive bladder than have asthma or diabetes! Dr. McCoy is a proponent of InterStim® by Medtronic.

InterStim® works by delivering a small electrical impulse that blocks out those inappropriate nerve signals, letting your bladder communicate with your brain without that interference, therefore restoring normal communication. And it’s thought to work in this same way for bowel control.

Lifestyle changes can also be effective for treating incontinence. Making dietary adjustments, like avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods, can reduce bladder irritability. Additionally, regular physical activity can strengthen pelvic muscles and enhance overall health. For some, simple modifications, like using the restroom more frequently or avoiding certain activities that exacerbate the condition, can alleviate symptoms.

Loss of bladder and bowel control for seniors is a common but treatable condition. While it can lead to shame and embarrassment, it’s essential to remember that effective treatment options are available. Regular visits with a healthcare provider, lifestyle changes, and therapies can aid in the management and overcoming of incontinence. Do not shy away from discussing symptoms with a healthcare provider or loved ones, and instead, seek the support and care you need to break free from this condition.

Northeast Missouri Health Council, Partners for a lifetime of health

Medical, Dental, and Behavioral Clinics in Kirksville, Missouri, Macon, Missouri, Milan, Missouri, and Kahoka, Missouri. Visit our website to find the nearest clinic to you.

Craig McCoy, D.O., is a native of Central Missouri, born and raised in Slater, Missouri. He is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and has been in practice since 1996. Dr. McCoy provides the full spectrum of obstetrics and gynecologic care.

Dr. McCoy is actively involved in the advancement of women's health through research, and has participated in randomized controlled studies of incontinence treatments.



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