One of the biggest hurdles to treatment for many people is the persistent belief that incontinence is a normal and even inevitable part of aging. This is untrue. Incontinence is the result of physiological factors, but it’s not something that happens simply because we grow older. Today, I’m dispelling the myth that incontinence is a normal part of aging, explaining what causes it, and sharing one of the best-kept secrets of modern medicine.
Incontinence is a medical condition, plain and simple, and there are myriad factors that can trigger it. Changes in the urinary and pelvic floor muscles, hormonal fluctuations, and neurological alterations are all possible contributors to an increased susceptibility to incontinence among all of us as we age. But let’s be very clear about the difference between the natural aging process and pathological conditions that lead to incontinence.
Physiological Changes and Incontinence
It’s certainly true that the aging process can be associated with changes in bladder function and pelvic floor musculature. The detrusor muscle, responsible for bladder contractions, may undergo alterations in its ability to contract, leading to reduced bladder capacity and increased urgency. Weakened pelvic floor muscles, meanwhile, which are often a consequence of previous pregnancies and hormonal changes in postmenopausal women, can also result in stress urinary incontinence.
Neurological factors play a pivotal role in maintaining continence. The aging nervous system may experience degenerative changes, affecting the coordination between the bowel, bladder and the central nervous system. This disruption can lead to detrusor overactivity, contributing to urge urinary incontinence and impaired emptying of the rectum.
Here’s the important thing to remember. While age-related changes may predispose individuals to incontinence, it is not a normal or unavoidable aspect of growing older.
What Can Be Done?
If you find that physiological changes or neurological factors mean your bladder or bowel control wasn’t what it once was, you’re not doomed to adult diapers and a rapidly shrinking social lie. Sacral neuromodulation (SNM) has emerged as a groundbreaking therapeutic option for individuals suffering from incontinence, irrespective of age. This minimally invasive procedure involves the implantation of a very small pacemaker-like device that modulates the sacral nerves, regulating bladder and bowel function. SNM addresses the neurological component of incontinence by restoring communication between the brain and the pelvic nerves, effectively alleviating symptoms.
By delivering electrical impulses to the sacral nerves, SNM influences bladder and sphincter function, modulating the signals that contribute to incontinence. This approach has demonstrated remarkable efficacy in managing a spectrum of incontinence types, including overactive bladder, urinary retention, and fecal incontinence. Here’s what real patients have to say about their experience with SMN for urinary and fecal incontinence.
The Bottom Line
Incontinence should not be considered an unavoidable part of the aging process. Instead, it should be understood for what it is—a complex medical condition with diverse etiologies that can be effectively addressed through innovative interventions like sacral neuromodulation. Here at the Continence Center at Nevada Surgical, we’re working to raise awareness that incontinence is a treatable condition and need not diminish one’s quality of life, regardless of age.