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Urinary Incontinence in the Elderly


Dr. Lynn Stothers, MD, MHSc, FRCSC, Assistant Professor of Surgery/Urology, Associate Member, Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

Dr. Howard Fenster, MD, FRCSC, Clinical Professor, Department of Surgery, Division of Urology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

Definitions and Epidemiology
Urinary incontinence (UI), the involuntary loss of urine, is a common medical condition in the elderly. Over 1.5 million Canadians are currently afflicted with the condition, and the number is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years as the baby boom population ages.1 Chronic UI has far-reaching consequences for both the individuals affected and their caregivers. Physical complications include renal failure, urinary tract sepsis, renal calculi, hematuria, skin disease, falls and fractures and death relating to renal failure/urosepsis. Psychosocial impact can range from embarrassment and social isolation to depression and suicidal ideation. Less than 50% of those affected seek help for the condition, often due to embarrassment.

UI can be categorized according to the simple clinical classification presented in Table 1.