November is National Bladder Health Month, which provides an excellent opportunity to talk about bladder problems — a group of issues affecting seniors nationwide. Our bladders are important because they allow us to hold and release urine, which is a byproduct of the food we consume. When our bladders aren’t healthy, however, it can cause other problems throughout the body. In most seniors, bladder health problems typically occur in three different ways.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection occurring anywhere between your bladder and your kidneys. Older people are more prone to these infections because they can’t always empty their bladders due to weakened muscles. That leftover urine serves as a convenient breeding ground for bacteria, which can then cause an infection. Symptoms of a UTI include a painful or burning sensation while urinating or feeling the urge to urinate while producing little urine. If left untreated, UTIs can spread to the kidneys, which could cause lasting organ damage.
Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS)
This term refers to a collection of symptoms including loss of bladder control, difficulty urinating, leaking urine, or a frequent need to urinate. In most cases, LUTS is caused by problems with the pelvic wall muscles, bladder, or urethra. These muscles tend to weaken with age, and as a result, seniors often suffer from LUTS. According to a 2014 government study, 25 percent of older Americans had “moderate, severe, or very severe urinary leakage,” also known as incontinence. These incontinence issues are most commonly caused by muscles being too weak or too active. When muscles are too weak, patients may have accidents. When muscles are too active, patients may feel a frequent urge to urinate. In either case, incontinence and other bladder issues can cause severe social, emotional, and physical ramifications in patients.
Bladder cancer occurs in the lining of the bladder and is more common among smokers. For example, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, “[b]ladder cancer mostly affects older people. Ninety percent (90%) of people with bladder cancer are older than 55, and the average age people are diagnosed with bladder cancer is 73.” Experts estimate that this form of cancer causes 17,670 deaths every year.
Symptoms of Bladder Problems
While everyone’s body behaves a little differently, specific symptoms may indicate more significant problems.
- Urinary Incontinence: Being unable to hold urine or having leaky urine.
- Frequent Urination: Having to urinate more than eight times per day.
- Nighttime Urination: Waking up multiple times per night to urinate.
- Sudden Need to Urinate: Feeling an urgent need to urinate that seems to come out of nowhere.
- Difficulty Emptying Your Bladder or a Weak Urine Stream: This could be a sign of weakening pelvic muscles.
- Blood in the Urine: This could be an early sign of bladder cancer.
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor.
Tips for Keeping Your Bladder Healthy
Just like any other part of our body, you can keep your bladder healthy by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Drink Plenty of Water: Consuming six to eight glasses of water every day can help keep your bladder healthy.
- Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption: If you do drink liquids other than water, limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption, which can negatively affect your urinary function.
- Don’t Smoke: Smoking cigarettes can cause harmful chemicals to build up in your urine, which can contribute to bladder cancer.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight and Get Plenty of Exercise: Constipation can cause bladder problems. To help prevent this, maintain a healthy weight, and get plenty of exercise.
Don’t Wait to Address Bladder Issues
Bladder problems cause patients discomfort and embarrassment, and can endanger their lives. Fortunately, doctors can treat many of these disorders with medication or a course of antibiotics. That’s why it’s so important to consult your doctor at the first sign of problems. By paying attention to your bladder health all year long, you can live a happy and healthier life.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.